THE GREATEST BEER RUN EVER is directed by Peter Farrelly. It stars Zac Efron, Russell Crowe, and Bill Murray. It’s based on actual events.
In 1967, Chickie Donohue is a ne’er-do-well Merchant Marine staying with his parents while on leave, amid escalating tensions in Vietnam and growing numbers of protests. Wanting to support his friends overseas who are fighting in the war, he decides to undergo the seemingly ridiculous tasks of taking beers from home over to his buddies in Vietnam, despite the intensifying escalations. Will he be able to find his friends and give them a piece of home, boosting their spirits (in every sense of the word) or will he be killed in action during this fool’s errand?
I love true stranger-than-fiction stories and American history. While I’m certainly familiar with the Vietnam War, I hadn’t heard of Chickie Donohue, as I’m guessing most people haven’t. Likewise, I hadn’t heard of BEER RUN until receiving the screening invite, but was immediately intrigued and amused with what I was reading, and was even more optimistic seeing it was in the capable hands of director Peter Farrelly, a man who’s given us everything from DUMB AND DUMBER to GREEN BOOK. How does this movie measure up? It does a decent enough job with its surprising true story, but the end results are uneven and a dragged-out third act doesn’t help the final product.
Where BEER RUN shines brightest is its leading man, played expertly by Zac Efron. Portraying a washed-up loser who’s a bit dimwitted and blind to the true nature of what’s going on in Vietnam, the young man gets a crash course in that living hell throughout the film. His chemistry with everyone in the movie is fantastic, whether he’s chatting up journalists, having reunions with his buddies now serving in the war, or genuinely fearing for his life. There couldn’t have been a better man to play this role, and his performance does a good job straddling the fine line between comedy and drama. Everyone else in the movie is one-dimensional by comparison; I should probably stress that Russell Crowe and Bill Murray only play supporting parts despite their high billing.
BEER RUN also serves up great period detail. The Vietnam landscapes are believable, from the city streets to the wildernesses plagued with ongoing battles. Even the American scenes look great and take the audience back in time. It’s topped off beautifully with a soundtrack of 60s pop tunes. Films set in the past have to look and sound like the era they’re depicting, and BEER RUN doesn’t disappoint there.
Unfortunately, the film falls short of greatness. Probably the biggest weakness is the stakes are very low for its first two acts; despite depicting the Vietnam War, what happens is relatively without consequence. When the movie starts piling on an insane amount of drama in its third act, it comes off the rails, and it quickly becomes apparent that the filmmakers have no idea how to end the movie. The two-hour-plus running time is unnecessary and excessive; had it been about 20 minutes shorter and edited more rightly, it could’ve been a superior film. Many subplots don’t amount to much, making one wonder if the film truly needed to run as long as it did.
BEER RUN has its problems. It’s uneven and wild, but then again, so was Vietnam. Despite its overlong running time, Zac Efron shines in his performance, bringing this unknown eccentric with a stranger-than-fiction story to life in the big screen. Moderately recommended when it hits streaming.