Artie Lange's Beer League DVD review

Film / Video Reviews
Artie Lange's Beer League DVD review
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Mar 1, 2007, 03:39

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ARTIE LANGE'S BEER LEAGUE directed by Frank Sebastiano; Echo Bridge, 2006

Like most Stern-aware individuals, I knew this bravely independent movie was coming out in a limited release run of theaters over the summer. Though, by the time I got around to seeing it after opening weekend, the closest theater playing the movie was in a town I never heard of, 500 miles away from NYC.  At the time I thought to myself… a-ha! More evidence of corporate imperialism and the Hollywood system squeezing out the little guy! And I continued to think that until I rented the DVD this past weekend.

Artie Lange is by no doubt a very talented comedian with an extraordinarily quick wit.  As the fan-turned-cast-member replacement to Jackie Martling on the Howard Stern Show, Artie quickly cemented himself as the diplomatic “every man,” connecting with Stern fans (including me) on a whole new level. Artie's down to earth vulnerability and demeanor coupled with his stand-up chops has made him a comedy powerhouse not only on the show, but the ever-expanding Lange sells-out large venues all across the country now too.

Having spilled the above praise, …Beer League is something of a train wreck starting from the very first scene of the movie with plenty more cringe worthy moments throughout, but the opening scene, man… it is a painfully long rip-off of Bill Murray's legendary “Cinderella story” flower whacking bit in Caddyshack, (unfortunately performed by Lange).  For me, Artie's cinematic stock plummeted with this opening gambit, only succeeding in making me feel like, in some kind of creepy way he was simply emulating his hero John Belushi. To make matter's worse, Artie's archetype in the movie, Dennis Mengenelli, is an uncanny rip-off of the Tony D'Annunzio character in Caddyshack too. Sigh...

What went wrong?  Lange has enough creativity and more than enough screen presence to avoid forgery; Clearly he can write jokes and deliver them. Unlike most criticisms of this movie, the plot and overtly chauvinistic scenes (over-the-top and sarcastic to me), were the only things I kind of liked about it. However, the film's cliché moments are completely overshadowed by the extraordinarily poor direction, bad editing, bizarre lighting, and the absolute worst sound design I have heard since renting Dr. Butcher MD on VHS back in high school.

I actually don't mind bad acting from supporting actors in comedies and think it can actually help (John Waters has blazed a trail for years exploiting this concept), but the supporting cast in …Beer League is just plain ol' bad.  The movie had plenty of potentially great moments but the director never gave them a chance to breath.  …Beer League could have claimed its own comedic territory, but top-to-bottom, this production merely resorts to satisfying itself by aping classic comedy moments from the late 70's and 80's, resulting in a film that tarnishes what otherwise are really great historical moments in comedy cinema. Â

Artie Lange's Beer League simply has no soul and with a quick exit from theaters grossing a mere $472,000 in total domestic box office receipts, the numbers pretty much support the argument.  In a nutshell, the focus of this production seems only content to pack in as many one-liners in rapid succession as possible, rather than relishing in the comic situations as they unfurled. As a Stern fan, I think we all would have enjoyed a nicely produced, yet simple film of Artie Lange's stand-up (a la Eddie Murphy's Raw) rather than a half-assed, low budget movie that doesn't convey the true talents of its star. Sadly this isn't even a good rental. Like many others, I hope he learns from the experience.

We're all rooting for him to give us something worthwhile next time.  After all, he is a Stern Fan's favorite underdog. Â

P.S. If you haven't seen it, take a look at Wet Hot American Summer (2001). This is a movie that takes the same cues as …Beer League but actually produces something original and really fucking funny.

-Jason C.

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