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Growin A Beard | review | dvd | Lollipop

Growin' A Beard

(Beef & Pie Productions)
by Ewan Wadharmi

Since 1939, the emerald in Shamrock Texas' St. Patrick's Day celebration has been the beard-growing contest. It's an event on the magnitude of Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania. And when engaging in purely manly activities like cultivating facial hair, or entering dumb contests, you may as well make it the female-repellant Donegal: That ridiculous hairy helmet strap favored by the Amish, Abe Lincoln, and guys in the A.V. club.

Not that the combatants involved in this pissing contest need any more character, they make the journey worthwhile. From the contest veteran who enters only once per decade "to give everyone else a chance" to the former third and first-place winner with his sights now set on second-best, and the chlorophyll-popping green-bearded old codger, you want to root for them all. Likeable and gracious to a young outsider, our players are an intriguing lot with built-in stories.

It's regrettable that the documenteers left these rich sources mostly unmined. No wives or girlfriends are featured for their insight. In fact, women are noticeably absent in the town itself. Perhaps commitment to the beard has rendered the men celibate. The kid gloves are on in the interviews, as the filmmakers take the event more seriously than the good-natured entrants.

Where the producers shine is in the marketing. The packaging is styled with hip, vintage graphics, and a clever booklet synopsis. An included shaving permit is a "get out of jail free card," should you find your baby-butt face in Shamrock. Disc extras include subtitles for a particularly heavy drawl and inexplicably removed outtakes of the Irish barber. And there's a funny short film of another idiotic male contest, "The 72 Oz Steak."

The Gourds' country-folk soundtrack is an added bonus. The Austin band provides dead-on cool songs written very specifically for the film. They also stage their own beard contest at the premiere, with the movie's subjects as judges.

What makes the documentary work is that universal maxim, "boys are silly." Women will enjoy feeling superior by pointing that fact out. Guys will like it because we're proud of our goofiness. And if Punxutawney Phil humps an old guy's chin, we all enjoy six more weeks of winter.

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