By: rogerebert Posted On: April 20, 2023 View: 253

There was a time when it felt like Broken Lizard might be the next Monty Python or National Lampoon. “Super Troopers” still has a devoted audience that quotes it between bong hits. “Club Dread” is their most underrated and maybe funniest movie. “Beerfest”? Pretty solid comedy. And then everything kind of ground to a halt. Jay Chandrasekhar went on to direct some truly excellent comedy television, including some of the funniest episodes of “Arrested Development,” and I always wondered if that career move led to the relative dissolution of BL. Sure, they made a few more forgettable movies and a well-received TV show called “Tacoma FD,” but I truly hoped that the new “Quasi,” now on Hulu, would be a return to form. It’s not.

There are some laughs here and there, but they’re mainly in the first 15-20 minutes before the gang runs out of jokes and starts repeating the same ones. Honestly, the only real joy to be found in “Quasi” is the kind that comes from seeing a group of old friends having a good time. While it’s nice to have them back in one sense, their pacing is a little, well, broken. 

Like “Monty Python & the Holy Grail”—an obvious inspiration along with the work of Mel Brooks—everyone in the group plays more than one character, but Steve Lemme gets the lead, “Quasi,” short for Quasimodo. Introduced with narration from Logan Roy himself (Broken Lizard honorary member Brian Cox), the hunchback of Vincent Hugo’s novel has become the resident torture expert for King Guy (Chandrasekhar), who wants him to murder his rival, Pope Cornelius (Paul Soter). Of course, the Pope gets a hold of Quasi and tries to convince him to be the assassin of the King instead. Stuck in the middle, Quasi seeks guidance from his BFF Duchamp (Kevin Heffernan) and even catches the eye of the King’s new wife (a wasted Adrianne Palicki), who realizes that he’s a better beau than her abusive royal jerk.

The best humor in “Quasi” has that Brooks-esque Vaudevillian sense of comedy. When the King learns that Quasi invented their best torture device, Guy responds, “You made my mother-in-law?!?!” It’s an old-fashioned sense of silly setup-punchline humor that speaks to a comedy era that isn’t seen much anymore, and I wish Broken Lizard could really tap into that “take my wife ... please” brand of silliness more often. What Mel Brooks did at his best was take idiotic behavior and goofy punchlines and elevate them with his ace comic timing. Broken Lizard, at its best, has a similar potential.

Heffernan is a solid comic actor for sure, but I’m not convinced he has the same directorial chops as Chandrasekhar—Heffernan has directing credit on this, and “The Slammin’ Salmon,” the worst BL movie. There’s something tragically off about the pace. At one point, I thought things were moving at a relatively decent clip and then noticed I had 75 minutes left. I would have guessed the movie was much further along. It’s fascinating how flat comedy can somehow warp time. “Quasi” is relatively short but feels about twice as long.

Ultimately, “Quasi” is a decent effort from talented dudes but a missed opportunity at something memorably hilarious. It's a few decent jokes in search of a better movie that needed a bit more improvisational effort in the comedy department and a lot more shaping in the editing room. (It also doesn’t help that Heffernan has little sense of composition. It’s tempting to say this looks like TV, but it looks more like YouTube Shorts.) The best way to enjoy “Quasi” is to bring the same lingering affection for Broken Lizard that I did. And maybe embrace the very intentional 4/20 release date too.

Now on Hulu.

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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Quasi (2023)

Rated R

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