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Beer, broads and baseball combine with hilarious results in Artie Lange's Beer League...an over-the-top comedy about a group of misfits whose weekly softball games seem to have a lot more to do with getting into fights for macho dominance than hitting home runs. Artie is an unemployed and unmotivated drunk that is predictably still living with his mother. He is on a losing softball team, and he and his teammates are facing the end of softball as they know it if they can't pull it together. When love enters his life, it unexpectedly alters Artie's low self- esteem, and the odds for winning, not only the league trophy, but a new life, are certainly looking up. He and his teammates will have to go for the win, and survive all the comedy and chaos along the way.
For more about Beer League and the Beer League Blu-ray release, see Beer League Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on August 15, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Artie Lange, Ralph Macchio, Anthony de Sando, Cara Buono, Jimmy Palumbo, Joe Lo Truglio
Director: Frank Sebastiano
» See full cast & crew
Beer League Blu-ray Review
Love it or hate it, Beer League is unapologetically juvenile humor at its best.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, August 15, 2009
As a self-proclaimed beer snob with a soft-spot for comedies, I'm always intrigued by the latest film productions that incorporates those two elements. I missed Beerfest upon its original theatrical release, but planned to rent it as soon as it hit my local rental chain. You're probably wondering why I'm talking about Beerfest in a review of Beer League, but since both films hit retail outlets at approximately the same time (on DVD), I was faced with a situation where Beerfest was completely rented out, but not a single copy of Beer League had been touched. Admittedly, I barely gave Beer League a second thought, chalking the entire production up to a cheap attempt to cash in on the success of Beerfest and walked out of the store with an entirely different comedy. Since that time, I've seen Beerfest on at least five occasions, but continued to avoid that other beer film like the plague. Now that I've been given the opportunity to review Beer League, I'm admittedly eating a healthy dose of humility over my constant rejection of a film that's far better than I'd expected. It may not be cinematic gold, but the typically annoying Artie Lange managed to squeeze enough laughs out of me to give this film an enthusiastic thumbs up.
Down and out loser Artie DeVanzo (Artie Lange) is approaching his mid-30's as an unemployed slacker who's still living with his mom. His only source of pride is reflecting on how cool he used to be in high school and his ability to pound alcohol as if it were water. One of his favorite hobbies (when he's not sleeping, drinking, or prowling for intoxicated women wearing beer goggles) is playing softball with his buddies in a local beer-sponsored league. Given Artie's lack of athletic prowess, he supplements his shortcomings by talking smack with members of the opposing team and making it clear to his own teammates that he could care less whether they win or lose. All of that changes following a team-on-team brawl that Artie instigates by egging-on his high school nemesis Dennis Mangenelli (Anthony DeSando). By decree, the local sheriff allows the two rival teams to play out the current season, but the losing team is ordered to drop out of the league following the championship game. Knowing his team won't likely be able to beat Mangenelli's group of beefcakes (sponsored by Mangenelli's gym), Artie decides it's time to take the game seriously and settle the score with his long-time enemy.
Within the first ten minutes of the film, I was nearly in stitches. Chalk it up to low expectations from the get-go, or simply the mood I was in, but I could not stop laughing at the barrage of one-liners and name-calling tossed around by the thoroughly entertaining comedy team in Beer League. I've never been much of an Artie Lange fan and typically find his humor a bit too crude or offputting for my taste, but the writing duo of Lange and Frank Sabastiano (a long-time writer for Late Night with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live, who also directed this film) manages to hit all the right notes in this production. From the hilarious yet uncomfortable appearance of Artie's mother at sexually inopportune times, to the vice-filled shenanigans at the bachelor party, the film sets up plenty of opportunities for the cast to shine and they rarely let it go to waste.
Delving into the performances, Beer League contains a number of stand-out actors that help soften the impact of Artie Lange's in-your-face style. Out of all the characters, the one I enjoyed the most, was the role of Dave, played to perfection by Joe Lo Truglio (Reno 911, Role Models). Dave is the unbalanced catcher on the softball team, who can't seem to hit a pitch if his life depended on it. His antics after each strike-out are downright hilarious and breathe constant life into the softball scenes (which tend to be a little less comical than the rest of the film). Jimmy Palumbo is equally hilarious as Artie's friend Johnny, with his best sequence involving him making fun of the five-year-old daughter of Maz (Ralph Macchio) and her inability to dance. It may not sound like comedy gold, but hearing a grown man go on and on about the lengths it pains him to watch her dance is both unexpected and quite funny. Rounding out the positive performances in the supporting cast are Seymour Cassel as the crotchety old team captain, Laurie Metcalf as Artie's overbearing mother, and Anthony DeSando as the sleazy, sex-crazed Mangenelli. On the flip side, Ralph Macchio has been surprisingly absent from hollywood since his outting as the Karate Kid many years ago, and his performance here shows his acting abilities haven't improved since that time. In the same vein, I found Cara Buono's performance as Artie's girlfriend to be a bit plain and uninspired. She's not given an extensive opportunity to generate laughs in her role as it is, but I felt she could have been more than just a placeholder as the romantic interest of the film.
I've always felt the sign of a good comedy is the ability to generate laughs on multiple viewings and I firmly believe that will be the case with Beer League. Some films of the genre grow stale with time, but consistently funny movies have the distinction of owning their audience throughout the full runtime, and become more and more enjoyable with each viewing. I can't guarantee I'll still like the film on my tenth viewing, but I'm already itching to watch it again this weekend.
Beer League Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the MPEG-2 codec (at a bitrate that varies wildly between 8 to 25Mbps), Beer League won't win any awards for cinematography, but still appears decent for a low-budget title. Detail consistently maintains a level of proficiency that's neither distinct nor hazy. If anything, the transfer demonstrates a lack of smooth textures, resulting in a highly digital look that easily bests a DVD, but fails to meet the standard set by any newer Blu-ray release. Along the same lines, the color spectrum is a little underwhelming, venturing ever so slightly into drab territory and robbing the visuals of the bright tones the production should possess. Black levels aren't inky deep, but they get the job done and contrast is largely consistent regardless of whether we're witnessing an interior or exterior shot. It may sound like I'm being fairly harsh in my critique of the video quality on this release, but for a studio well known for cheap titles, Beer League stands a one of the better transfers delivered by Echo Bridge Entertainment.
Beer League Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Unfortunately, my assessment of the audio is where this review takes a turn for the worst. Beginning with the primary audio option (Dolby Digital 5.1), I found myself turning the volume up to levels I've never reached on my receiver, hoping I'd realize at least marginal improvement in the dismal track. Even after the significant increase, I still never managed to generate an audio experience that remotely utilizes the rear soundstage of my home theater and was left with a general impression that the audio was a bit muffled or indistinct. Considering this is a comedy with rare opportunities for unique sound engineering that could encompass the entire sound field of my home theater, I opted for the Linear PCM 2.0 track. WARNING: Do not make the same mistake I did and switch to PCM after adjusting the volume to a higher level on the Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It's not loud enough to worry about blowing your speakers, but you might run the risk of waking a neighbor or two. After settling in on the PCM track, I was much happier with the clarity and volume balance of the front-heavy audio, though it was slightly disappointing to be forced to give up the ability to watch the film in surround sound.
Beer League Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Beer League: Behind the Scenes (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 18:39 min): Consisting of on-the-set footage, interviews with various actors and scenes from the final film, this supplement is surprisingly uninspired when you consider the comedic talent involved in the film.
Live from CineVegas! (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 4:09 min): The Vegas premiere is chronicled as a camera crew follows a slightly intoxicated Artie Lange immediately prior to the screening of the film.
Artie Behind the Scenes of Jimmy Kimmel Live (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 3:33 min): Artie sits around telling stories prior to his appearance on late night television.
Interviews (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 19:14 min): The filmmakers, producer, and main actors are interviewed regarding various aspects of the production. Several of the personal stories are somewhat interesting, but taken as a whole this was fairly dry entertainment.
Rounding out the extras, we have an upconverted version of the unrated trailer, a comical commercial for beer goggles, a photo gallery, some brief segments with Artie doing comedy bits in the studio and a marginally funny audio commentary with Artie Lange and director Frank Sebastiano.
Beer League Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There are a select number of comedies I'd consider quotable and Beer League proudly claims a spot on that list. Awash in juvenile humor, crude jokes, racial insensitivity and sexual innuendo, the film is unapologetically crass, yet thoroughly entertaining. I'd imagine there are plenty of viewers that might be turned off by some of the offensive elements in the film, but for those of you with an appreciation for the type of humor on display, this is an easy comedy to recommend. That's not to say there aren't better comedy options on the Blu-ray format, but for the price, I'm happy to add Beer League to my collection.
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