Balls and Booze
Seeing Beer League release listed as 2006 is a surprise – it’s every bit the raunchy, sexist, homophobic, racist, drug-fueled lark spewed out in the ‘80s post-Revenge of the Nerds. Someone opened a time capsule in ‘06 and let Beer League free.
Artie Lange guzzles beer, starring as a 35-year old failure keeping a barely functional softball squad alive. A litany of masculine slop later, Lange’s character doesn’t learn anything. Why should he? For Beer League’s purposes, he’s successful enough to pay his bar tab, get laid, and ratchet up his chances for lung cancer by shoving a never-ending supply of cigarettes into his mouth. He’s the leader, not only of this team, but all men who dream of this simple existence.
The brashness with which Beer League operates deserves some credit. Nothing is called foul. Ralph Macchio spends his character’s bachelor party in a foursome on a pool table – in public. Bodily fluids earn not only mention, but celebration. Racial jabs spare no one.
Beer League shows no fear in trying for a gag
Beer League shows no fear in trying for a gag
In moments, this almost works. Lange is so abrasive, so outrageous, and so ludicrous, there’s ambition in how far Beer League will push into the lowest of brows. What Lange lacks in employment opportunities, he’s willing to spare nothing and no one to entertain his team. Male bonding: playing ping-pong, dildo-bat baseball as a women “pitches” in her feminine way. Laughs come, sometimes awkwardly, but Beer League shows no fear in trying for a gag. That willingness earns Beer League at least a runner-up trophy.
The sloppy construction of this thing feels like a stack of stitched together skits with TV-tier production values. Director Frank Sebastino primarily works in TV; he’s in a comfort zone here. It’s cheap and low budget, confined to a few locations. That’s enough for the meandering plot, switching between on-field stupidity, bar conversations, and a pitiful romance as this proto-Major League plays out. It doesn’t matter who wins, as true for viewers as it is for this team scraping by purely on their own middle age testosterone.
Not a frame of this movie holds any class. That’s the intent. It’s bottom scraping sports schlock for a bunch of guys looking to live their mid-life crisis drinking/sex fantasies on screen. Lange takes the movie on his shoulders, performing a stand-up act as he goes, landing a number of disconnected zingers as Beer League hunts for a reason to exist. In doing so, Beer League finds a handful of moments, unabashedly off-color, but mostly just a series of singles strung together to load the bases without scoring a run.
Like the movie itself, Beer League’s Blu-ray drifts along lazily. Given the amount of dirt on this print, it’s unlikely anyone touched things since the ‘06 debut or the previous 1080p disc from Echo Bridge.
Grain runs thick, caught up in a compression battle and swept up by noticeable edge enhancement. Artifacting shows up often, the worst of it coming during a dinner date in an Italian restaurant. The walls litter with blocking and banding. Then come halos, robbing any sense of natural sharpness.
At least this presentation provides some color. Primaries stick out, with special attention given to red and green. It’s arguable they go too far into glowing territory, but let Beer League have this one. Brightness runs high overall, allowing for consistent depth and contrast.
In DTS-HD, this soundstage handles plenty of ambiance. During games, the small crowd wraps around. Numerous scenes take place in a bar with music and background chatter filling the soundstage. A beach nicely sends crashing waves around, blending naturally with the dialog.
A bit of low-end spunk comes from the soundtrack. Beer League doesn’t have much else to offer the subwoofer.
Artie Lange and director Frank Sebastiano pair for a commentary track, first in a surprising number of bonuses. A short Beer Goggles skit hardly fits here, but the 18-minutes of raw set footage make up for it. During the promotion of Beer League Lange went on a Kimmel and The Best Damn Sports Show, and a collection of clips from the sets offer a unique perspective on green room chatter. Footage from the Vegas premiere runs four minutes, a few minutes of Lange reading gags in a studio is weak, while some raw interviews with the cast (19-minutes worth) earn a watch. A photo gallery and trailers bring the disc into home.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Like a time capsule of ’80s raunch, Beer League has no filter while hitting an occasional zinger, but it’s crude and barely holding itself together.
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