'I Hope They Serve Beer in

For helmer Bob Gosse, Tucker Max is above all a celebrity in need of an audience.

Based on Tucker Max’s bestseller and scripted and produced by Max and Nils Parker, low-budget indie “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” distinguishes itself from such last-fling-before-the-wedding comedies as “The Hangover” with the grittiness of its Texas-set locales and the smug intelligence of its unapologetically narcissistic protagonist. As portrayed by Matt Czuchry, this self-proclaimed a-hole is even adorably cute. But for helmer Bob Gosse (“Niagara, Niagara”), Tucker Max is above all a celebrity in need of an audience. Pic, which opens Sept. 25 in platform release, looks unlikely to attract date-night crowds but could score with young male target auds.

After an opening law-school scene designed to showcase Tucker’s verbal virtuosity, as well as his compulsion to shock, the pic shifts into buddy-movie mode as Tucker (Czuchry) tricks straight-arrow pal Dan (Geoff Stults) into a bachelor binge at a particularly sleazy strip joint 250 miles away, hauling along woman-betrayed recluse Drew (Jesse Bradford) for some “hair of the dog” therapy.

In an ensuing bar-crawling sequence, the boys toss down shots and do the dozens with a band of pre-wedding bachelorettes, neither side particularly witty in its gender-bashing (with Drew’s invective more violent than inspired). Then it’s off to the main attraction: the hands-on strip joint.

Despite (or maybe because of) Tucker’s nonstop sexual political incorrectness, the pic’s femmes tend to shine. Left-behind fiancee Kristy (Keri Lynn Pratt) displays a wicked sense of humor, while the videogame-playing stripper mom (Marika Dominczyk) who snares Drew’s heart positively twinkles with mischief. Even the deaf girl whose sexual wails bring the cops bursting through the door — in the pic’s hand-held, “Cops”-style prologue — upbraids the intruders with speech-impaired brio.

Tucker receives his comeuppance in the form of a powerful laxative introduced in his beer, the proverbial substance hitting the fan — or in this case, the lens, in one of the cinema’s most extended fecal sequences. (Gosse gets maximum mileage out of long shots of Tucker skittering around a hotel lobby’s vast, white marble floor, leaving a brown trail behind him.)

Tucker’s Ferris Bueller-like genius comes in his ability to repurpose this humiliation as a wedding-crashing, Baptist-shocking standup act to get back into his friends’ good graces and feign remorse. Tucker’s true epiphany arrives with his dismal attempts to navigate the bar scene solo; apparently, his success depends on an audience of buddies.

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell

Production

A Freestyle Releasing release of a Darko Entertainment, Freestyle Releasing presentation of a Darko Entertainment, Rudius Films production, in association with Pink Slip Pictures, the Collective. Produced by Richard Kelly, Sean Kittrick, Edward Hamm Jr., Tucker Max, Nils Parker, Max Wong, Karen Firestone, Aaron Ray. Executive producers, Shaun Redick, Ray Mansfield. Directed by Bob Gosse. Screenplay, Tucker Max, Nils Parker, from Max's novel.

Crew

Camera (color), Suki Medencevic; editor, Jeff Kushner, music, James L. Venable; production designer, Eve Cauley Turner, art director, Mark S. Turner; costume designer, Alison Parker; sound (Dolby Digital), Gabriel J. Serrano; sound designer, Jeff Kushner; casting, Joseph Middleton. Reviewed at Magno Review 1, New York, Sept. 22, 2009. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 106 MIN.
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