Movie Review: 'I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell' - A Round of Male Misbehavior

They'll drink to that (and that and that . . . ): From left, Geoff Stults, Jesse Bradford and Matt Czuchry.
They'll drink to that (and that and that . . . ): From left, Geoff Stults, Jesse Bradford and Matt Czuchry. (Courtesy Of Steve Dietl)
By Dan Kois
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, September 25, 2009

A grubby-looking and fitfully funny ode to binge-drinking and being a jerk, "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" is an adaptation of the best-selling book of the same name by Tucker Max, the self-styled playboy blogger and entrepreneur who produced and wrote the film (with Nils Parker). It soft-pedals the most toxic aspects of Max's stories, tamping down his raging libido and blatant sexism into a box-office-hopeful package, complete with facile lessons learned and characters unconvincingly redeemed. Less repugnant than Max's critics might expect -- and likely not repugnant enough for his hard-core fans -- "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" mines the same vein of masculine mischief that fueled "The Hangover," though with fewer laughs and a good deal less polish.

As in "The Hangover," the action here revolves around a road-trip bachelor party gone awry, although this film's get-together in a couple of strip clubs outside Richmond is more realistically downscale than that film's Caesars Palace spend-a-thon. Irrepressible Tucker (twinkly-eyed Matt Czuchry) convinces buddies Dan (Geoff Stults) and Drew (Jesse Bradford) to stage Dan's bachelor party out of town. It will surprise no one who's read Max's stories to learn that unlikely hookups, jailhouse beatings, the denunciation of women as "whores" and "sluts" and the befouling of a hotel lobby all ensue.

But in an earnest attempt at crafting an audience-pleasing hit, screenwriter Max also includes love, redemption, a wedding and a heartfelt speech of the type that's meant to excuse all the naughtiness that preceded it.

The movie version of Tucker Max is, of course, a deviation from the real-world one. Movie Tucker is meant to be a charming rogue who must learn to overcome his glib lack of concern for others. That the movie's climax revolves around a familiar scene -- the ne'er-do-well's public apology to the one he has wronged -- is a measure of how beholden "I Hope They Serve" is, despite its outre sensibilities, to popular movie tropes. That the apology is delivered not to a woman but to one of Tucker's friends suggests the exalted position of bros in the universe of this film.

Czuchry is more than cute enough, but not at all charismatic enough, to convince us that girls might be interested in him despite the horrible things he says. Stults, as the put-upon groom, is a bit wooden, but Bradford gives his all as depressed Drew, whose fury toward women is explained by his cuckolding at the hands of a rapper named, amusingly, "Grillionaire."

Those who have long criticized Max and his book for woman-hating may be surprised to find out that several of the best performances in "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" are turned in by women, including Keri Lynn Pratt as Dan's straight-talking fiancee. For the first time, in fact, Tucker Max gives women the chance to talk back to him and his band of merry misogynists, with one stripper (Marika Dominczyk) delivering a withering put-down to bitter Drew: "Calling someone a whore," she notes archly, "is easier than admitting she's out of your league."

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (105 minutes, at the Regal Hyattsville Royale and Big Cinemas Union Station) is rated R for nudity and strong sexual content, including graphic dialogue throughout.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company