Comedy troupe Broken Lizard has been trying to recapture the magic of their one legitimate hit, Super Troopers (2001), for twenty-two years and five movies. Consequently, hoping the sixth time is a charm, they bring us Quasi, as in Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame. They also bring it to us via Hulu. That’s just about the funniest thing associated with Quasi.
There is probably comedy to be found in a parody of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. However, Broken Lizard chose to go a different route. Quasishares just three things in common with Victor Hugo’s novel – the main character, it takes place in France, and it’s not funny. There is no Notre Dame, no Romani dancer, and no evil Archdeacon. Based on the story that unfolds in Quasi, it’s clear that none of Broken Lizard’s members have ever read The Hunchback of Notre Dame or seen the animated Disney film of the same name. It’s very possible none of them even finished reading the title. They just stopped at Hunchback and giggled.
In this telling, Quasi (Steve Lemme) and his buddy (Kevin Heffernan) work at the local torture chamber. Quasi is responsible for inventing the rack (explained as a failed attempt at fixing his hunchback) and spends his days collecting data for his machine. He regularly tortures another employee (Erik Stolhanske) whose job is to be tortured. That employee is also short and a very good cook. You can already see how much work wasn’t put into writing clever or witty jokes.
Meanwhile, the King of France (Jay Chandrasekhar) has announced a lottery where the winner gets to meet the pope (Paul Soter) and have their confession heard by the said pope. Quasi wins the lottery and the king orders him to assassinate the pope during confession. Simultaneously, the pope orders Quasi to kill the king. The pope and the king are fighting over a falling out that happened years earlier when they were together at university. Poor Quasi is stuck trying to figure out how to get out of his predicament.
Combined with a bunch of barely related subplots fighting for screen time, Quasi gets bogged down in a meandering screenplay. As a result, this culminates in all of the plotlines limping into each other in a half-assed and predictable climax. Most of the subplots don’t really go anywhere. They exist mostly as a basis for half-formed jokes. Strangely, the character development is solid, which makes the writing behind the plot and jokes that much more frustrating. We know why characters are behaving certain ways, but we are never given a reason to care about them. More importantly, we’re never given a reason to laugh at them.
The comedy in Quasi fails primarily due to the abandonment of the source material. Quasi is clearly going for a Mel Brooks type of film, vaguely resembling Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). However, without the source material for reference, the jokes all have to stand on their own. One plotline features Quasi’s buddy being jealous of Quasi winning the lottery, people ignoring the buddy to focus on Quasi, then the buddy refusing to sell out Quasi while having his scrotum nailed to a stump.
Another has the queen (Adrianne Palicki) taking an interest in Quasi, eventually turning romantic so she can awkwardly kiss his sideways mouth. Still, another is the tortured employee/chef who keeps making good food because, uh, French people like food. There’s even a running theme about the common folk wanting to eat oysters like the rich folk, yet not a single related joke about being horny. These are the same guys that wrote a joke where a stoned kid licks the dividing window of a police cruiser and states “The snozzberries taste like snozzberries.”
After seven films and a television series (Tacoma FD), Broken Lizard has shown itself to be a one-hit-wonder. Given how Quasi played out, Broken Lizard probably came to the same conclusion when they were informed Quasi would release exclusively on Hulu, merely going through the motions of tired jokes, if not skipping the jokes altogether. While we’ll always have that first mustache ride, Quasi is a ride you should skip.
Rating: Cancel your Hulu subscription until the third season of Only Murders in the Building comes out.
Co-written and directed by Kevin Heffernan, Quasi was released by Searchlight Pictures in the United States on April 20, 2023.
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