By far, the most popular characters created for the long-running Canadian comedy series SCTV were the dimwitted Canucks Bob and Doug McKenzie played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas. Never seen without toques on their heads and beers in their hand, these two knuckleheads evolved from two-minute television sketches to a North American fad fueled by magazine covers, a platinum comedy album, and this silly movie based, believe it or not, on HAMLET.
STRANGE BREW sends Bob and Doug to the Elsinore brewery, where they try to con the company into giving them free beer to make up for the mouse they allegedly found in one of their empties. Instead, they stumble upon a sinister plot by Brewmeister Smith (Max von Sydow!) and Claude Elsinore (Paul Dooley) to drive Claude’s niece Pam (Lynne Griffin), the brewery’s new owner, insane and use the beer to dispense a mind-control drug that will allow Smith to rule the world.
Okay, eh, like, it’s a dopey idea played for maximum giggles by Thomas and Moranis, a couple’a hosers with keen comic timing honed over several years of playing these characters on television. Although the SCTV sketches were totally improvised, STRANGE BREW’s script lets the two men develop a relationship between the brothers that goes beyond beer and back bacon and makes them heroes to root for.
The absurdist opening with the McKenzie brothers attending the premiere of their film-within-a-film, a ridiculously cheap and inept science fiction thriller, prepares you for a different kind of movie that settles into something straighter (more or less) after the opening titles (and theme song composed and sung by Ian Thomas, Dave’s brother). Still, it nicely ties the film to the Great White North sketches and certainly gets STRANGE BREW off to a howling start.
One of the more quotable comedies of the 1980s, STRANGE BREW was written by Thomas and Moranis after MIRACLE MILE’s Steve de Jarnatt took a couple of swings at the screenplay. It’s not only unusual in that its two stars co-directed it, but also because it’s a rare film shot in Canada for a primarily American audience that’s also set there. Angus MacInnes (WITNESS), SCTV’s Mary Charlotte Wilcox, and NATIONAL LAMPOON contributor Brian McConnachie are also in it. Score by Charles Fox. Onscreen title: THE ADVENTURES OF BOB & DOUG MCKENZIE: STRANGE BREW.
Moranis and Thomas left SCTV, which was still airing 90-minute episodes on NBC, to make STRANGE BREW. Two months after MGM released STRANGE BREW, John Candy, Eugene Levy, and Joe Flaherty released another “SCTV movie,” GOING BERSERK, which was a flop (and also had Paul Dooley in it).