The makers of Super Troopers return with Quasi, a weirdly boring retelling of the French literary classic.
Look, it’s hard to realize you’re not Monty Python. Hell, it’s even worse to learn you didn’t even make it to Mel Brooks’s level. To be fair, it’s hard to make any kind of classic literature spoof or historical farce when those markets have already been cornered by the famed British troupe or the beloved Jewish entertainer. The point is, Broken Lizard must’ve felt pretty high on itself when it decided to follow the lead of The Life of Brian and History of the World: Part I in trying to get modern laughs from historical folklore. Now it’s time for the boys to come back down to Earth.
Quasi is a historically accurate but terribly unfortunate title for the latest movie from the guys behind Super Troopers. Because the under 100-minute parody of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame can best be described as quasi-funny, quasi-clever, or quasi-tolerable. It is the loosest possible retelling of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, with the titular Quasimodo (Steve Lemme) no longer in the bell tower and working in a torture chamber in 13th Century France.
Accompanied by his upbeat buddy Duchamp (Kevin Hefferman), Quasi wins the right to meet the Pope (Paul Soter) in a town lottery and earns an audience with King Guy (Jay Chandrasekhar). Little does the humble hunchback know that King Guy wants him to kill the Pope to gain more control over the land. Odd timing, considering the Pope wants Quasi to kill King Guy for the exact same reason. Stuck between a rock and a holy place, Quasi, Duchamp and the King’s wife (Adrianne Palicki) work together to take a stand against the two houses and free the people.
Quasi-funny, quasi-clever, and quasi-tolerable.
It’s a good thing Quasi is a Hulu exclusive considering how cheap it looks. There are about five sets Broken Lizard has to work with here and they all look like they’re made from props in a Renaissance Fair put into random barns. While a more clever filmmaker would’ve found creative ways to shoot around barren sets or even use them as a consistent punchline throughout the movie, visual cleverness has not been the calling card of Broken Lizard movies. And Hefferman (who also co-stars and co-wrote the screenplay) sticks with flat shots of conversations where comedy tries to happen (occasionally broken up by fly over establishing shots of the French countryside).
Though it doesn’t overstay its welcome, Quasi doesn’t have a lot of energy to make its decent runtime move any faster. It’s a calm and pleasant watch, which is something you’d say about an episode of Inside the Actors Studio, not an R-rated comedy. Since Quasi lives or dies on the strength of its satire, the best thing you can say about it is that none of its jokes are offensive. The Broken Lizard gang are clearly past their prime, but at least they’re not resorting to juvenile toilet humor or “edgy” punchlines to hold the audience’s attention like late-period Happy Madison or Family Guy.
Nice as that is, the troupe doesn’t fill that space with anything particularly new or clever. It’s just observational humor spoken in modern vernacular about how weird olden society is with only some of the cast speaking in a pseudo-Victorian accent to stick with the time period (Chandrasekhar and Palicki especially). The schlubby buddy comedy schtick that Broken Lizard thrives on just does not gel with the medieval setting of Quasi, whether or not the gang embraces or defaces its source material.
The bottom line.
It’s not that Quasi is a bad movie, it’s barely a movie to begin with. It’s the premise of a movie left barren with little to no creative twist or riff on the Broken Lizard formula. It’s easy to think the gang just thought their goofball personas acting out such classy material would be enough to make some laughs. But the writing and performances are so weak that it makes this popular comedy team look like community theater actors. The most telling sign of Broken Lizard’s time having come and gone is Brian Cox, arguably their most famous Hollywood connection, literally phones-in his appearance via grumbled VoiceOver. Who can blame him for offering a quasi-performance?
Quasi is now available to stream on Hulu. Watch the trailer here.
Images courtesy of Searchlight Pictures
QUASI - 4/10