In most versions of the classic 1831 Victor Hugo tale, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, the female protagonist is Esmeralda, a French Romani girl who is so beautiful that every major male character in the story either wants to marry her or seduce her. (She’s also only 16 in the novel—a book from over 200 years ago). For all her kindness and compassion, Esmeralda is basically treated terribly throughout the story and finally ends up hanged for a crime she didn’t commit, just as she reunites with her long-lost birth mother.
Quasi, a satirical new take on the story from the Broken Lizard crew (Super Troopers), has a decidedly different view of its female lead. Directed by Broken Lizard’s Kevin Heffernan and written by him and the rest of the team—Steve Lemme, Jay Chandrasekhar, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske—the film dispenses with the tragic Esmeralda in favor of Catherine (Adrianne Palicki). Katherine is the (still beautiful) new Queen of 13th century France and she is both amused by and way ahead of everyone else around her, including her husband King Guy (Chandrasekhar) and the Pope Cornelius (Soter). Both leaders hire the same man, the deformed torturer Quasi (Lemme), to assassinate each other, while Catherine and Quasi developing an affection for each other.
“She’s definitely the smartest person in the room,” Palicki tells us. “A lot of times, queens are made to be the evil character, especially in movies like this. What drew me to it, outside of working with the guys and that it’s hilarious, was the fact that it was just different than anything I’ve ever done.”
As one might discern from the description above, this is a very loose (to put it kindly) adaptation of the classic story, with the characters speaking modern English, using contemporary vulgarities, and acting as anachronistically as possible amidst the period costumes, period settings, and period torture devices. While there are still moments of gross-out humor that were a trademark of earlier Broken Lizard efforts like Super Troopers and Club Dread, the template here is more Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
“It was super fun,” says Palicki about the shoot, which largely recreated medieval France in Santa Clarita, California. “It had that Monty Python feel that we haven’t seen for a very long time. And to have the woman be like the smartest person—no offense, but a lot of guys cannot write really well for women, but they can really write really well for women. On top of that fact, there was a lot of fun improv that went along with it.”