“The Five Stages of Beer” is a goof on the studies of Elisabeth Kubler Ross and her exploration of the psychology of grief (denial, anger, etc.). The movie demonstrates how these stages apply to beer drinking and, more importantly, to personal relationships. Unfortunately, none of the film’s characters manage to evoke enough sympathy from the audience to convince them to stick around through the “acceptance” stage.

As the film begins, Dennis (Frank Lauria II) is coming home early from a business trip to surprise his wife. Those of you thinking this is probably not a good idea should feel free to give yourself a high five, because sure enough, Dennis discovers his wife has left him for an honest-to-Bozo clown and cleaned out their apartment. Dennis, quite understandably, heads over to his neighborhood bar to get ‘faced.

His friends’ are less than empathetic about the whole situation (frankly, they act like real a******s). Sunny (Mau Barclay), the bartender, explains to Dennis her theory on the five stages of beer while his friend Mick (Sam Upton), who ownes the bar, decides he wants Dennis to get on his “chick-a-week” plan, and gives him until Flag Day(?) to do so.

Mick’s strategy for picking up women (aim low) is pretty obnoxious, but we’re willing to go with it for Dennis’ sake. He’s one of those sad sack characters that can only exit in the movies, because if you knew him in real life you’d stick a letter opener in his throat. He goes out on a first date with pretty firefighter Audrey (Jenya Lano) while Mick is knocking boots with Staci (Stacy Burnham). Dennis screws up by ceaselessly talking about his ex-wife, but it all works out when he and Mick exchange their respective dates at the end of the night. This swap is only the first in a series of vaguely insulting assumptions about gender relationships in “The Five Stages of Beer.”

Dennis and Staci initially hit it off, as do Mick and Audrey. The two women are a couple of real wet dreams for these guys (or all guys, we’re to assume): Staci is the hot, oversexed (yet intelligent) rock singer who alludes to her joy of f******o, while Audrey acts just like one of the guys – only with boobs. And she may be the only woman I’ve ever heard of who likes getting a thong for a present. Dennis eventually screws up, but by the time we get to the inevitable musical montage where he and Staci are wallowing in self-pity, it’s hard to care.

Eventually, the two friends assume each others’ roles. Dennis becomes the thoughtless ladies’ man, while Mick develops into a devoted partner for Audrey. They have a falling out, and things look momentarily bad for our heroes. Luckily, an old girlfriend comes into town to offer Mick a consolation screw and some free relationship advice. Just like real life.

I’m not sure where exactly “The Five Stages of Beer” takes place. But any planet where calling someone “married” is enough of an insult to make him come across the bar at you, and girlfriends can always find it in their hearts to forgive you for banging someone in a bar bathroom is one we need to terraform.

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