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Beer League
Artie Lange plays himself
Beer League
A Scene from "Beer League".
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $10,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

June 26th, 2006: Artie DeVanzo’s (Artie Lange) primary interests in life are drinking and easy women. As a jobless and miserable deadbeat, who still lives with his mother (Laurie Metcalf), he does have two things going for him: his lovely girlfriend Linda (Cara Buono) and his delinquent softball team. Unfortunately, rather than play, he and his offensive group of miscreants prefer to start fights on the field, particularly with a rival team headed by Dennis Mangenelli (Anthony De Sando). Their behavior has gotten so outrageous that Artie’s team faces permanent expulsion from the league. To make matters worse, his girlfriend seems to be coming to her senses and is reconsidering her relationship with her pitiful boyfriend. It is now up to Artie to shape up and motivate his team into competency. Before his primitive and convenient lifestyle comes to a screeching halt, Artie must rescue the team and the relationship with the girl he loves, all without sacrificing any drunken late night bar fiascos.

What to Expect: This film is really for the Stern fans. What I have to say in this preview would hardly matter to anyone that’s a follower of Artie Lange and his exploits on “The Howard Stern Show,” since it would take a monumental effort to sway them from seeing this comedy. America can generally be broken down into two groups: Stern lovers and Stern haters. If somehow, someone is not familiar with the program and does not fall into either category, then this preview might actually alter their opinion. In reality, the die-hard fanatics will not be kept away from another Stern related product and the protesters will not be caught dead at the film’s screening even if it is free.

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Artie Lange is an actor-comedian, who broke into show business as part of the original cast on “Mad TV.” The gig led to subsequent roles in feature films like Dirty Work, The Bachelor, and Old School. While still performing stand-up on a regular basis, Lange has found a permanent home on “The Howard Stern Show,” a radio program that he has grown up with and has been influenced by tremendously over the years. In brief, Lange brings a highly unrefined, average guy perspective to the show that can seem boorish even with the controversial Stern sitting beside him, but has clearly sparked an entirely new dynamic since 2001, when Lange first joined the legendary group. The comedian is essentially a self-proclaimed slob and makes no excuses for his raucous behavior, which frequently entails binge eating, binge drinking, and other binges of the negative variety. He is also a huge baseball aficionado, particularly when it involves watching the game from the stands while enjoying a refreshment or seven. Overall, he is one lovable, funny guy, whose off-hand remarks and macho insights frequently bring a smirk to my face.

Having covered the actor’s history and his primary interests in life it is not surprising to find him in a film about beer drinking, baseball, and chicks. Lange wrote the partially autobiographical script together with Frank Sebastiano, who has scribed mostly for television in the past. Sebastiano has actually won two Emmys as part of the writing teams on “Saturday Night Live” and “The Chris Rock Show.” This is his directorial debut, but given his resume and the movie’s decidedly undemanding premise, I doubt this will be a difficult adjustment for him.

True to the film’s autobiographical nature, Lange has surrounded himself with many of his comedian friends, including Jim Breuer, Nick DiPaolo, and Jim Florentine. However, there are a few surprises in the cast. Ralph Macchio hasn’t done a movie in three years and you would have to look even further back to find him in his prime, but somehow here he is with a fairly prominent role. At 44 years old, he’s no longer the Karate Kid of the past. Oscar nominated Seymour Cassel is just the right type of contrast for this scandalous material. He’s had a resurgence late in his career, largely thanks to Wes Anderson’s (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) quirky comedies. Laurie Metcalf (“The Norm Show,” Toy Story 2) will play Artie’s overbearing mother. Clearly she can portray momma with just the right amount of excessive neuroses, in what should be another example of art imitating life.

The comedy actually received a rather positive initial reaction following its screening in Las Vegas a couple of weekends ago, but it should be pointed out that rabid Stern fans are among the most loyal supporters in entertainment and could easily be faulted for giving a skewed opinion of the movie. Throw about 10 beers into the equation and yeah, I’m sure Beer League could be a lot of fun. Some have gone so far as to compare the film’s humor to the hockey vagary in the classic comedy Slap Shot. Although they do share a similar premise, I doubt Lange’s film could possibly achieve the same intelligence and wit amidst all the mayhem. Perhaps a better comparison is to the direct to video sequel Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice, which starred the inimitable Stephen Baldwin.

I continue to refer to Beer League as autobiographical because in a sense it is. The filmmakers don’t even bother changing the main character’s name because it might require too much effort on Lange’s part to adjust. His laziness and tomfoolery in the film are an outright celebration of his actual daily lifestyle. Here is a man that takes pride in all of his vices and the magic of Hollywood filmmaking can transform him into a hero as opposed to the somewhat tragic and depressed figure that may be buried beneath the spirited exterior. In this case, a totally unrealistic and unoriginal world of baseball bravado gets introduced into an otherwise realistic portrayal of the stereotypical Jersey guy.

In Conclusion: What can you actually say about a movie for which the trailer starts with the line, “Anybody who doesn’t do a pre-game shot with me right now is a f***ing pussy!” It’s actually kind of funny in that beat me over the head with a mallet sort of way. I wish the movie would actually focus more on the hero’s go-for-broke decadence and avoid the conventional storytelling techniques that require a dumb formula plot like the baseball one in Beer League. As Artie’s buddy David Spade would probably say, “I liked it better the first time, when it was called The Benchwarmers.” Perhaps someday Lange will actually get to make a filthy and unapologetic comedy that does not resort to sweetening him up into a idol. I know he has the talent. I must add that I am a huge fan of “The Howard Stern Show” and have been for years, which is why it pains me to bash Artie’s new film this way when I truly happen to believe that the show benefits immensely from his unique presence. With his incredibly detailed stories and his brilliant and understated one-liners, Artie has made the show more enjoyable than it has ever been before. As a Stern fan I can freely admit that I will see this film and will probably laugh on more than one inappropriate occasion, but as an objective critic, I couldn’t possibly expect much from this project. At the very least Beer League should offer more laughs than the dreadful “Supertwink.”

Similar Titles: Dirty Work, The Benchwarmers, Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice
September 15th, 2006 (limited)
January 2nd, 2007 (DVD)

Echo Bridge Entertainment

Frank Sebastiano

Artie Lange, Ralph Macchio, Anthony DeSando, Cara Buono, Jimmy Palumbo, Joe Lo Truglio, Jerry Minor, Seymour Cassel, Michael Deeg, Laurie Metcalf, Elizabeth Regen, Maddie Corman, Jim Breuer, Nick DiPaolo, Jim Florentine

Total: 230 vote(s).

Comedy, Sports

Click here to view site

Rated R for non-stop language including strong sexual references, sexuality, nudity and drug use.

86 min






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