The age old agnostic debate that placing monkeys in a room with typewriters would eventually produce the works of Shakespeare is legendary, but easily disproved. I posit that a room full of Joe Ezsterhas clones would probably only produce scripts featuring his version of satyriasis, like “Showgirls Pt.6: the Thong Rebellion”. A more realistic variation on that argument is “Put a group of college guys together with a few gallons of beer and odds are you are bound to get an idea for a movie.” Of course the result would only appeal to drunken frat brothers, but you’d still have a movie. It is entirely likely that “Beer Muscles” is that movie.
A voluminous amount of lager is the only thing that would excuse the movie at hand, and it is certainly required for its viewing. The cast has the feel of fraternity cast-offs written all over it except for the fact that these “actors” would probably get blackballed by every Greek house on pledge week. Apparently writer/director Griffin Marks thought “obnoxious” was the preferred character trait for most of his players, and even that emotion was barely achievable for this cast. Most amazing is that the unskilled thespians are not the main problem as the story and the amateurish production values eclipse the travails of the cast.
The setting of this zymurgy epic is Barleyville the happiest, most bucolic township you will ever find nestled beneath an overpass—but that is only in comparison to cities placed under quarantine. The gentry is comprised solely of twenty-something stiffs with the attitude that reading is for snobs. To no surprise the preferred drink in this village is beer, and the local hot spot for tippling tankard is Al’s Bar, even though by appearances it should have been named Al’s Rumpus Room. There is a deft slight-of-hand being executed here on the audience by our helmer director.
A word of inspiration to an aspiring auteur: When budgetary constraints prevent an expensive or even affordable location shoot, don’t despair. As we learn from Mr. Marks you can justify staging scenes in your friend’s apartment and your uncle’s den by working these elements into your script. As an example, we come to learn that Al’s is the “best basement bar in town.” And later, when a visit to a strip club is called for, you turn your challenge of lacking access to a true gentleman’s club into a positive by creating a gag. Here the Barleyville flesh emporium is operated out of a friend’s home while his parents aren’t home, with his bedroom serving as the stripper’s dressing room. See how it works? By employing these shortcomings as a narrative device it becomes required that your scenes take place neighboring garages and efficiencies.
The story here, painful as it is to retell, is driven by a corpulent bartender named Bob. Bob works serving the foam suckers at Al’s TV Room—I mean bar, Al’s Bar—and he also carries a torch for Al’s daughter and fellow server, Dorris. His best friend Trent is a sociopath who was rightfully fired by Al for stealing a keg and now occupies his free time mooching free drafts. Also bending an elbow is the Mayor of Barleyville, the town sheriff, and I’m guessing even the Chamber of Commerce. Suffice that Barleyville won’t challenge Catalina for tourism dollars. We next get introduced to a carafe sized megalomaniacal wine magnate named M. Pinot Grigio who is disgusted by his town’s adherence to Ale. He trains a new lackey and at the same time provides us with his back story, that being his invention of a device that will evaporate the town’s beer stocks. His plan is that the sobering citizenry will stampede to his door to obtain his wine.
Things turn dark quickly in Barleyville. First Trent tries to get his job back and in the process he angers Al to the point of his heart exploding. Then, once the beer vanishes, pandemonium sets in—and by pandemonium I mean shots of people looking at empty beer bottles and scratching their head. Most are dismayed about what to do, leaving us to assume the option of driving one town over for suds is out of the question. It is at this point that things get absurd. (I know, I know…but I was speaking strictly within the realm of this movie, so the first act has to be accepted as “normal”.)
While looking for a new job Bob comes across a 6-pack of beer that was spirited away, the duct tape packaging proclaiming it is “Al’s Ale”, a private stock of the late lagermeister. We never have it explained how this half dozen survived Grigio’s pilsner purge, but Bob tears into the beer with the gusto of a lapsed 12-stepper. After half a brew Bob comes to find he has the strength to crush a brick with his bare hands, which is notable given he has a physique on par with Tom Arnold. Bob lets slip to Trent that the beer is infusing him with super powers and the two form a far from dynamic duo to get to the bottom of the beer mystery, complete with costumes that would fail as a Home-Ec project.
“Beer Muscles” has all the earmarks of a project that was borne of liquid inspiration, goaded along by camaraderie, and fueled by the misapprehension that inebriated laughter on the set meant the material was actually funny. If only an unclouded mind had stepped in this whole sordid mess could have been avoided.