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‘Quasi’ (review)

Streaming has allowed for writers to immediately get their work in front of eyes, especially those with dedicated fan bases that live for the rewatch. With that in mind, Broken Lizard went to Hulu for a straight-to-stream deal and 4/20 release date for their latest film Quasi, rather than run it through the box office.

In a recent interview, Jay Chandrasekhar noted that many of their fans were already smoking on the couch, so they wanted to reach them where they were.

Indeed, Quasi is built for the small screen, especially as it does not bring the big swings that we expect from a group that was once looked at as this generation’s answer to Monty Python.

The film uses the character of Quasimodo more as a way to familiarize the viewer than looking into any part of the well-known story.

Set in 13th Century France, “Quasi” (Steve Lemme), is a hunchbacked social outcast with a research job in the torture chambers of King Guy (Chandrasekhar).

His focus is his own invention, the most famous of medieval torture, the rack.

Quasi’s always upbeat co-worker and friend Duchamp (Kevin Heffernan, also directing) has his eyes set on the prize du jour, an audience with the Pope won by a lottery system. He gives one of his many handfuls of tickets to Quasi, who happens to win the coveted audience with Pope Cornelius (Paul Soter).

Everyone is pulling double duty with multiple roles, but each is decidedly distinct with some of the most elaborate costuming and accents they have attempted to date.

King Guy meets with Quasi under the guise of congratulations to instruct him to assassinate Cornelius, who the king despises as both a danger to France and apparently “a total asshole.” Less inclined to violence is the king’s most recent wife, Catherine (Adrianne Palicki). She grows closer to Quasi with every glimpse of the humanity her husband sorely lacks, and is a clever feminine foil.

Upon meeting the Pope, the hapless Quasi receives surprising orders to kill the king, who is equally despised by the Pope. Caught in the middle, Quasi enlists Catherine and Duchamp in a ploy to fake his death, but jealous emotions and surprise discoveries change the course of history for everyone.

There are simply not enough jokes in Quasi to give it the feel of a Broken Lizard project. Whole scenes go by as little more than connective pieces rather than the stand-alone hilarity that the group usually prizes itself on. Generally, one could pull any scene from Super Troopers or Beerfest and have it stand on its own two legs, but perhaps there is too much homage to the Monty Python Life of Brian style rather than staying true for what the audience wants – zingy quotes, hilarity that builds from absurd base concepts, and jokes that dance the line of tasteful.

The movie feels too safe for Hulu, giving ABC Special vibes instead. While it is nice to be spared some of the low-hanging fruit about differently abled characters, there is plenty of fodder about the church, historical France, and class struggles that is never explored to the point of gut-busting laughter. Instead, a polite chuckle is the greatest outcome of many attempts.

Lemme is easily likable as Quasi and is incredibly comfortable as the title character while Heffernan manages to play multiple roles while directing with no slips. This ease is over-represented in many of the other ensemble members (drawn from both Broken Lizard and Tacoma FD) who seem to be going through motions rather than bringing their own writing to life.

It is just a bit too Disney for this edgy group, and leaves you wondering if this was really the version they wanted or if there is a decidedly engaging and raunchy director’s cut floating around the Hulu servers.

Let’s hope it’s the second.

* * * * *

Produced by Richard Perello and Broken Lizard
Screenplay by Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme,
Jay Chandrasekhar, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske

Based on The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo
Directed by Kevin Heffernan
Starring Kevin Heffernan Steve Lemme Jay Chandrasekhar,
Paul Soter Erik Stolhanske Adrianne Palicki

Narrated by Brian Cox

Quasi is now streaming exclusively on Hulu.
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