Quasi marks a substantial risk for the Broken Lizard comedy troupe. Their very contemporary style of humor is a natural fit for movies like Super Troopers and Beerfest. Doing a period piece – and a riff on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, no less – brings the possibility of a tonal mismatch. Fortunately, the guys don’t adhere to Victor Hugo’s tale, taking it in their own weird direction that fits their style. The movie may not win a ton of new fans, but viewers who like what they do will find plenty of chuckles here.
The hunchbacked Quasi (Steve Lemme) works in a torture chamber with his flatmate Duchamp (Kevin Heffernan, who also directed). After winning a lottery in the kingdom, he’s invited to confession before Pope Cornelius (Paul Soter). The big moment is ruined when King Guy (Jay Chandrasekhar) demands Quasi assassinate the Pope while in the confessional. He doesn’t want to do that. The situation becomes even more problematic when the Pope asks him to assassinate King Guy. He’s suddenly caught in the middle of their long-standing conflict. Meanwhile, Quasi grows close to Queen Catherine (Adrianne Palicki), who suspects her new husband may not intend to keep her around for very long.
The weak point of most Broken Lizard movies is plot. All their movies have funny parts. Few of them tell a story you can get wrapped up in. Ironically, in borrowing classic source material, no matter how unfaithfully, Quasi proves to be their strongest effort narratively. The title character needs to figure out a way to avoid killing either man, knowing his own life is in peril if he fails. That creates basic-level intrigue that makes the film a little more than just a series of scattershot jokes.
Of course, there are an abundance of jokes. As befitting Broken Lizard, you get a slew of raunchy gags, including one of the most outrageous sex scenes I’ve seen in a long time. Others are intentionally stupid. There’s a running bit about people chanting the word “oysters” that’s dumb the first time they do it, then funny by the fourth time because they’ve committed so fully to it.
Intentionally weird pronunciation of French words is another recurring idea, as is a supporting character who actually likes being put in the torture devices Quasi and Duchamp operate. Some of the comedic ideas fall flat, and a few fall very flat. The ones that work, though, are enough to compensate. The actors give their fullest to the material, which certainly helps.
Quasi demonstrates that 27 years after their debut, Puddle Cruiser, Broken Lizard still has what it takes to crack up their fans. They haven’t made a masterpiece yet. Hopefully that will come. For now, this deliberately nutty take on Quasimodo is perfect for those times when you want to tune out the rest of the world and enjoy a few mindless laughs.
out of four
Quasi is rated R for language, some crude/sexual content, and violence. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.