Quasi is silly but mildly amusing

Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures
BREATHE, HOPE: Steve Lemme stars as a hunchback caught in the middle of a feud between the pope and the king of France, in the Broken Lizard production Quasi, inspired by Victor Hugo’s classic novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, streaming on Hulu.

Co-writer-director Kevin Heffernan with co-writers Jay Chandrasekhar, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske—all part of Broken Lizard Industries (Super Troopers, Beerfest, Club Dread)—present Quasi, loosely based on Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Lemme stars as the hapless and lovelorn hunchback Quasi, who’s drawn into a feud between the pope (Soter) and the king of France (Chandrasekhar). (99 min.)  

Glen: I think Broken Lizard peaked with Super Troopers, but if you’re in the mood for an amusing stoner comedy, this might fit the bill. Quasi goes about his days getting pelted with cabbages from the townsfolk and working as a torturer in the king’s dungeon. His claim to fame? He invented the Rack. His closest friend and fellow torturer is Duchamp (Kevin Heffernan, who also plays the king’s right-hand man, Henri-Francoise). Duchamp is a loser, but at least he’s not a hunchback. When Queen Catherine (Adrianne Palicki) visits the torture chamber, she and Quasi make a connection, and the story plays out with Quasi pining for Catherine as the pope and king each urge Quasi to murder the other. It’s pretty silly, but I noticed that a few puffs off of a joint make it exponentially funnier.

Anna: It’s hard to beat Super Troopers when it comes to stoner comedy, but the folks at Broken Lizard are trying their best with Quasi. It’s groan-inducingly dumb, but like you said, a more, let’s say, relaxed state of mind brings the giggles out. I like that we have so many people playing several different roles. Even Lemme, who plays Quasi, doubles up his role, also playing the Jester. I will say, I bet these productions are a lot of fun to work on. It may be dumb comedy, but at least no one here is taking themselves too seriously. Silly quips, physical comedy, whimsical wordplay—all the things these guys know how to do in their sleep is brought on-screen. Will I ever watch it again? That’s a pretty safe “no,” but then again, a lady in her late 30s may not be the target audience.

Glen: They may be trying to channel a Monty Python vibe, another comedy troupe that plays it silly. Brian Cox is the narrator, and he opens the film by announcing the 13th century “sucked.” Indeed, it’s a brutal, backwards time, but part of the film’s shtick is to have Quasi and Duchamp talk like contemporary dudes. One of the ongoing tensions between them is that Duchamp refuses to call their relationship a friendship. Instead, he refers to Quasi as a colleague. Apparently, it’s not cool to have a hunchback as your best friend. It’s one of many subplots designed to give the thin story a little emotional heft, but the film still feels as light as a feather. You can expect to get a few laughs out of it, especially if you surrender to its inanity, but this is a pretty forgettable effort by the Broken Lizard boys.

Anna: I did laugh a bit, and you definitely have to surrender to the silliness to find joy in it. Quasi being told to kill both the king and pope helps lead to some hijinks and moves things along. I’m not sure who exactly I would recommend this to. Maybe stoner college dudes? I genuinely enjoyed Super Troopers, but maybe that is the exception to the rule for me. Maybe it’s all just a little too silly for me to enjoy. Next time a Broken Lizard flick comes out, I may just skip it. m

New Times Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Sun Screen. Glen compiles listings. Comment at [email protected].

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