Bob and Doug and Law

Not to take things too lightly, but I had a chance to watch Strange Brew again this week, and I noted a surprising amount of legal content:

  • re: the mouse in the bottle that started it all, see M’Alister (or donoghue) v Stevenson [1932] AC 562
  • As Bob and Doug make their initial claim for free beer, Bob informs us “Its in the Canadian Criminal Code”
  • At several moments, Doug expresses awareness of the legal consequences of whatever ill-considered plan they are undertaking, and his solution is most often to get his brother to drive
  • As Pam settles Claude’s hash regarding control of the Brewery, there is a brief discussion of something about shares and ownership, which I failed to catch, but which contained some pretty specific vocab.
  • As they sit in a holding cell with the required toughs, Doug clarifies his position on the legal profession in general: “Lawyers are for sucks!”
  • In the very next scene they meet their lawyer in jail in preparation for trial on charges of kidnapping. The lawyer, who seems all to ready to plead them guilty, refers to “section 247 of the Criminal Code”, which was accurate at the time, and also to their best defense as one of “mental incompetence”
  • In the trial scene… well, suffice it to say there is a trial scene, complete with a picture of Trudeau behind the bench, but I won’t offer any opinions of the proceedings, since without a law degree I’m sure I am out of my depth here

When viewed for the purpose, the movie is clearly an adaptation of Hamlet, with Bob and Doug serving as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Pam as Hamlet, her mom Gertrude as Queen Gertrude, John as Hamlet’s father’s ghost, Claude as the usurper Claudius, Jean LaRose as Ophelia, Henry as Polonius, and Brewmeister Smith as a combination of the villanous forces of Claudius and Leartes. The big tip off to this analogy is the name of the brewery-castle complex: Elsinore. A nice touch here is the logo of the brewery, which we spot first on the side of a 2-4. A clear reference to the dark castle brooding over the industrial idyl that appears on the Pilsner label. One can imagine Moranis and Thomas developing the whole script from a moment of inspiration sparked by a deep contemplation of that image.

Another aspect of this movie that I’d forgotten about, but which I’m now impressed by, it the film-within-a film framing provided by the initial and final sequences (as well as the 10-second intermission), where audience members move through several positions in relation to ‘the film’ Much grist here for film theorists – where is my pointed goatee when I need it?

In any case, the upshot is that I’ve recommended this work to our librarian in charge of our movie collection. We’ll see if she agrees with me on this one.


  1. A mouse in the bottle… What kind of hoser falls for that?

    Top marks in this post Michael. :)