I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
The book “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” was suggested to me by a friend who described it as nothing short of hilarious. The author, Tucker Max, is a Duke Law School graduate and son of wealthy restaurant owner Dennis Max. This degree and lineage has afforded him the opportunity to live to excess (especially in the arenas of drinking and sex) – excess he recounts in his book. Such stories of note are “The Dog Vomit Story,” “The Absinthe Donuts Story,” and other titles I won’t repeat due to this review’s PG-13 nature. However, despite the book’s debauchery, disgusting content and disrespect to women…it is nothing short of hilarious. And I’ve never been one of those “The book was so much better than the movie” kind of guys, but really this work by Bob Gosse does not do the book justice at all. The shortcomings come in all forms, including the structure to the acting, but the biggest problem is Tucker Max as a character. He’s not the kind of guy we root for in a movie, and without a character to root for it’s just a collection of insulting, gross, sophomoric comedy; probably why the Chicago Tribune listed it among the 12 most awful films of the last decade.
The movie, I HOPE THEY SERVE BEER IN HELL, starts out promising. In a frenetic camera shot, cops storm into a house to stop an assault called in by neighbors complaining of a woman screaming. Their guns and flashlights then aim at Tucker Max, played with one of the most annoying smirks on film by Max Czuchry, having sex with a deaf girl who has no idea how loud she is. This leads us to believe we’re in for a series of vignettes following the stories from the book (and in that it had promise) but instead simply focuses, loosely, on one story, “The Austin Road Trip.” In a rip-off of BACHELOR PARTY, Tucker takes his soon to be married friend Dan (Geoff Stults) to a strip club before his wedding. He drags along depressed friend Drew (played unconvincingly smarmy by Jesse Bradford), as they head to a far off strip club, something the groom promised he would not do. They stop at bars to insult various groups of women, be they bitchy bachelorettes or heavy set women. They drink the night away, and as Drew hooks up – inexplicably – with one of the strippers, Tucker runs off for a strange sexual conquest, leaving Dan to fight off strip club bouncers and cops on his way to the drunk tank. After a funny scene I won’t give away (straight out of the book), and facing banishment from his friend’s wedding, Tucker makes a redemptive speech which might have had some weight to it if it were delivered by a more redemptive character.
Max Czuchry is relatively unknown in films, his last one of note being a small part in EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS, but he could have played Tucker Max better. I think he has the requisite charm and the ability to mix it with the entitlement of a rich, cocky jerk, but we see more of the jerk than the charm, and his delivery of key punch lines is off. That makes him simply an annoying lead character instead of a despicable one with redeeming qualities. Jesse Bradford should fire his agent from going from working with Clint Eastwood in FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS to this, and then he should be ashamed that he wasn’t at least able to do his part well. Drew’s lines are delivered awkwardly with forced angst like Bradford is trying too hard to sell us on the fact that his character hates the world. And the relationship with the stripper would infuriate me if I were a woman, as would most of the women in the movie who fall for these guys. It perpetuates the belief that if you treat a woman badly, she’ll come back for more. I’d argue the point as well if there weren’t so many examples on Jerry Springer that say otherwise. Geoff Stults, however, did well in the brief “October Road” on ABC Family and continues with fine work here. As Dan, we see that he doesn’t want to do anything too bad to displease his future wife, but he’s being a friend to Tucker. As his anger towards Tucker during the course of the night grows to a boil, we can see it build through the haze of alcohol and strip club smoke machines, all the way to the floor of the jail cell.
Tucker Max reportedly claimed this film would piggyback off THE HANGOVER’s fame and eventually pass it in domestic gross. As of now, January 2010, it is still not even remotely close to recouping its $7 million dollar budget. On the bright side, however, Tucker Max has a second book, Assholes Finish First, set to release later this month. As the old saying goes, you can’t keep a good man d…well, you can’t keep a man down.