'Quasi' review: Broken Lizard's harmless 'Hunchback of Notre Dame' sendup
Courtesy of Hulu/Searchlight
Still riding on the highs of their timeless classic, “Super Troopers,” the Broken Lizard comedy troupe are back in the saddle with a different type of beast: “Quasi,” which is a send-up of Victor Hugo’s beloved “Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Broken Lizard, made up of Kevin Heffernan, Jay Chandresekhar, Steve Lemme, Paul Stoker, and Erik Stolhanske, have made careers out of gross out gags, irreverent humor, and spoofing slashers (“Club Dread,” an underrated gem worth seeing for Bill Paxton’s wild lead performance alone), but it seems with “Quasi,” they’re entering a different, more harmless phase of their careers modeled after Monty Python or Mel Brooks. Of course, before the end credits, you’ll hear various jokes about women, the disabled, and, more notably, witness a scrotum nailed to a log, so it's obvious the gang still values their heritage. And yet, there’s something amicable about their candor and chemistry that also makes them worth rooting for. I can’t say “Quasi” is a great movie, but I didn’t hate myself for watching it, and if you're a fan of this style of humor, chances are you won't either.
Written by the troupe and directed by Heffernan, “Quasi” has the historical accuracy and political correctness of an episode of “South Park,” where the Broken Lizard brigade take on various roles and don’t seem too pressed if they offend the masses (it’s depiction and treatment of disabled people is, let’s say, a smidge off color), but then again, anyone watching “Quasi” isn’t looking for a smart comedy (the movie releases on 4/20 for a reason). The film is a menagerie of tasteless jokes about religion, spiritual enlightenment, and puts a spotlight on the rivalry that occurred in 1186 between King Guy (played here by Chandrasekhar) and Pope Cornelius (Soter).
It also follows Quasi (Lemme), who we learn in an expletive-filled opening prologue isn’t the same Quasimodo from the Hugo novel and he’s now an expert torturer, working happily under King Guy for scraps. When he’s not torturing unsuspecting peasants, he’s hanging out with his best friend Duchamp (Heffernan) and new pal Michel (Stolhanske) at the pub thinking about the normal life he’ll never have. That is until he wins a prestigious lottery that’ll grant him an audience with Pope Conelius (as part of the kingdom’s “Pope Week”). Except Quasi is secretly tasked by the Holy Father to assassinate the King and vice versa by King Guy after he invites him for a lavish dinner at his palace (complete with Oysters - a running gag in the movie). Poor dude can’t win despite his budding romance with the Queen (Adrianne Palcki - having a blast) blossoming quite nicely.
“Quasi” moves along at a brisk pace and allows the Broken Lizard troupe, who clearly have respect and admiration for each other, to riff and play with the material. There isn’t any one standout performance in the film and the crude jokes and innuendos are scattershot at best (8th graders who steal their parents Hulu login will probably pee their pants). You could say the group approaching their 50s may have softened their antics, but it lends itself to “Quasi” which never elevates to anything other than a watchable, but not mean spirited, time killer. The production design and low budget feel don’t help, though it puts more pressure on the comedians to deliver, and despite them never reaching the heights of their National Lampoon contemporaries, Broken Lizard can still make you laugh. That counts for something.
QUASI debuts on Hulu Thursday, April 20th.