After I returned from the San Francisco premiere I procrastinated writing this review to let it stew over for a day and I've found it didn't make a difference.
I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is, for those of you not currently 18-25 years of age, based off of the best selling book by the same name. Perhaps the most reprehensible piece of popular literature I've ever read, the novel is a compilation of the many adventures of one Tucker Max (the author and main character of the book). Tucker is a prick. Tucker thinks with his dick. And Tucker sticks anything and everything because he is slick. He also may be a genius; the single greatest embodiment of self indulgence ever documented. And, as he points out, it is the fact that he is shameless enough to share these things with us that we forgive him and even admire him.
Without totally abandoning my morals or credibility, I will admit that the book is one of the funniest things I've ever experienced. In the same manner that people eating it on motorcycles or falling down stairs, Tucker's blatant, extreme abuse of decency and social responsibility (all coupled with his outrageously detailed and sarcastic writing style) are hilarious for all the wrong reasons. It is so far beyond taboo that it you can't help but laugh, because the only other option is to sympathize with the victims and that is no option at all.
Now the obvious problem with this is that something so horrendously unacceptable could never be brought to the big screen. Where a book can leave boundaries behind because it is a solo experience, movies are the opposite. Above all else films are chained by social taboo and live or die by their ability to traverse those taboos successfully. Tucker's stories don't even reside within driving distance of acceptable. I'm not even sure an NC-17 rating would qualify. Furthermore, Tucker's stories are spread out over the course of his entire college career and few take place anywhere close to one another which presents serious narrative issues. Translation: this movie, by definition, shouldn't have ever been made.
But it was, and the result was bland. Specifically, this film had three major issues. First, technically speaking it didn't look finished. It needed color correcting in about a dozen places and there were some incredibly awkward cuts and camera angles that made no sense. Perhaps to the untrained eye these issues were not as noticeable though, which brings us to issue two. This movie solved its massive narration issue by stealing every stereotypical drinking comedy every made and then adding copious amounts of buddy movie themes that are totally the opposite of everything the Tucker Max of the book shares with us. End result: disenfranchising. And the third issue with this movie is that instead of focusing on Tucker and allowing the audience to experience the movie through him as we do in the novel, Max and Parker elected to elevate two of the minor characters from the book to main characters and then proceeded to focus even more on them than Tucker himself. In fact, the entire plot of the film revolves around the way Tucker impacts his friends in a negative light.
Without spoilers (oh the irony of using the word spoiler to describe a montage of cliche) the story goes like this: Tucker and his two buddies Dan and Drew want to celebrate for Dan's bachelor party by going to a strip club. Dan is getting married soon to a nice girl but her parents are religious freaks. Drew just broke up with his fiancee who turned out to be a cheating ho and he now hates all women. Tucker just wants to get laid as many times as possible. Tucker tries to convince the two of them to change plans and go to a better strip club a couple hundred miles away, eventually succeeds and off they go. They arrive, debauchery ensues, Dan and Tucker's friendship nearly ends as a result and then they are reunited at the end. Don't get me wrong this thing is hilarious, but if I had a nickle for every time I heard that story...
The magnitude of this blunder is incalculable. In so many ways this movie serves to apologize for Tucker's actions and even tosses in a climactic yet incredibly cliche "I'm sorry and I've changed my ways speech" at the end. The fact that Tucker afterward still acts similar is beside the point because it is in itself a huge gaping plot hole (the whole reason for Tucker's apology is to convince his best friend Dan that Tucker isn't a totally selfish jerk that doesn't care about himself and if he immediately returned to his old ways then it would be blatantly obvious he was lying and that would be the end...ah such is crappy Hollywood endings). More importantly though, what made Tucker Max famous was his unabashed selfishness and his crude raison d'etre. Tucker Max would NEVER apologize, because Tucker Max is not sorry for what he's done. Epic fail Tucker, you have a soul after-all. If this movie wasn't so damn funny I'd give it a 1.