Plot: Artie (Artie Lange) has been in a downward spiral most of his life, with no job, no love interests, and no place of his own, as he still lives with his mother. But while things aren’t looking up for Artie in general, he still takes solace in getting drunk as often as possible. His life also gets a boost of purpose whenever softball season rolls around, as he loves the game, the time with his friends, and the rivalry against his hated foe, Dennis (Anthony DeSando). But when Artie and his friends go overboard with their over the top antics, the team is almost kicked out of the league and in order to stay, they’ll need to pull off one hell of a season. Meanwhile, Artie finds a potential romance, but can’t seem to accept her past, his rival keeps upstaging him, and his performance on the field leaves a lot to be desired. Can Artie turns things around for the first time ever and get the girl, settle the score, and emerge victorious?
Entertainment Value: Beer League might be an underdog sports movie, but this is no inspiring journey of hope and dedication, instead it focuses on casual sex, fist fights, and genital herpes. If you’re familiar with the comedic style of Artie Lange, then you know what to expect here, as he was one of the writers and the material is geared to his strengths as a performer. The narrative is a well worn one, with a band of misfits trying to upend a more polished, skilled team, but the outlandish humor and nearly total lack of boundaries help it stand out from the crowd. This is also less about the sports than most movies of this kind, as it seems to be more about the friendships around the game, rather than the actual sport of softball. The humor is ruthless and pushes the envelope at times, with Lange rattling off nasty one liners and brutal insults with immense glee, while also being barbed himself with sharp exchanges. The banter is what makes Beer League work and if you appreciate that kind of comedic style, then you should have fun here. The jokes are rapid fire and the cast runs with the offensive nature of the material, adding enthusiasm to the deliveries. Of course, if you’re easily offended or prefer safe comedies, you’ll likely just gasp and cover your ears here. So if you like Artie Lange or crude humor in general, give Beer League a look.
You can tell this movie was designed as a vehicle for Artie Lange, who has the lead and also served as one of the writers. The material is right in line with Lange’s usual routine and that makes sense, as he carries most of the picture, though the supporting cast is a deep ensemble. But Lange is central to almost all the scenes, so having the writing catered to his comic senses was the right approach. I don’t think his performance here will win over any doubters, as he more or less plays himself, but for fans of his work, there’s a lot of laughs here. The gruff, spare no feelings style is on full showcase in Beer League, which means the movie is beyond mean spirited, but still hilarious at times, as well as ridiculous in some scenes. I also like Cara Bouno in this, as she brings a unique energy and while she’s not the most natural love interest for Lange’s character, the two have good banter when they share scenes. The cast also includes Ralph Macchio, Laurie Metcalf, Maddie Corman, and Seymour Cassel.
The Disc: As part of the MVD Marquee Collection, Beer League arrives on Blu-ray in a solid looking visual presentation. The print looks fine and while detail is passable, the movie is a little soft in some places. But this looks like a step up from the DVD in terms of overall sharpness, which is good news. The colors are natural and contrast is on the mark, so no issues there either. Perhaps not a massive upgrade over previous editions, but this is an improvement, without a doubt. The extras include some bonus clips with Artie Lange, a behind the scenes piece on Beer League, raw interviews, still photos, the Beer Goggles short, and the film’s trailer.
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