To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, The Greatest Beer Run Ever is a semi-biographical war dramedy directed by Peter Farrelly (Green Book) from a screenplay written by Farrelly, Brian Currie (Con Air), and Pete Jones (Hall Pass). Featuring Zac Efron, Jake Picking, Kyle Allen, Will Ropp, Archie Reneaux, Will Hochman, Matt Cook, Ruby Serkis, Bill Murray, and Russell Crowe, the film is based on the book of the same name by John “Chickie” Donohue and Joanna Molloy. The story follows John “Chickie” Donohue a former marine who sets out on a journey to bring beer to several friends from his neighborhood who were deployed to fight in Vietnam.
In Inwood, New York 1967, former Marine John “Chickie” Donohue (Zac Efron) is enjoying some beers at a bar with his friends on a Saturday night. They talk about how cheap he is, but he laments it’s only when he’s in between jobs as a merchant mariner. As they listen to music Chickie asks the Colonel (Bill Murray) to put more beers on his friend Bredon’s (Macgregor Arney) tab. The next morning Chickie oversleeps and is hungover. His father (Paul Adelstein) comes into his room and tells him he is late for Mass and berates him for his laziness.
Outside of church Chickie reads the Sunday newspaper while enjoying coffee and a donut. As Mass lets out he sneaks in and leaves with everyone else pretending that he attended the entire service. Later at home, Chickie eats lunch with his family. His sister Christine (Ruby Serkis) comes in upset and tells them another guy from the neighborhood died in Vietnam. She then proceeds to argue with her father about the point of the war and the government lying to the people before storming out of the room.
The war machine is something that has existed since the Biblical days. Man has always gone to war with one another and will continue to fight until the Earth is destroyed. Hollywood has capitalized on this by making dozens upon dozens of war films. Most of them are based on facts such as Pearl Harbor while others like The Tomorrow War are complete fiction. The Greatest Beer Run Ever is a story that sounds completely fictional. Who would think that a person would ever voluntarily go into a warzone not to fight or be a medic but to bring people beer? To quote Mark Twain, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” The real John “Chickie” Donohue actually went to Vietnam to deliver beer to his friends and luckily made it back to write the book that inspired this movie adaptation.
Farrelly does a great job directing this film. The way he blends serious moments with comedy works well for a story as crazy as this. This is something Farrelly does well in all of his solo-directed films. Most of the comedy is in the first half with the more serious moments being saved for when Chickie is in Vietnam. While the film is political it isn’t one-sided. It explores every angle of what people think about the Vietnam War. There are conversations about patriotism, government secrecy, and the power of the media. While it does clearly state the war was being fought for shady reasons it never paints soldiers or veterans in a bad light. CIA agents on the other hand are depicted as people you don’t want to get involved with.
The acting in this film is incredible. Zac Efron turns in one of the best performances of his career. As the lead, we spend the most time solely with his character and his journey. Chickie is mostly laid back and funny throughout the film, but Efron turns on the emotion when reaching the climax. Seeing the atrocities of war will change anyone and quite possibly make them rethink their stance on the subject when gaining first-hand experience. Bill Murray stands out as the Colonel who feels very real and lived in. He’s a serious person, but also forgiving. He has an agree-to-disagree stance on the war as he served in WWII and knows from experience what soldiers go through. Russel Crowe is also great as Arthur Coates. Coates is a war correspondent and photographer who doesn’t believe the U.S. should be in Vietnam. He and Chickie butt heads at first but grow closer as Chickie spends more time in Vietnam.
This is an interesting take on a war film and a story that I wish was more well known. The acting is great, the comedy works, and the serious moments add the necessary weight and validity to make this a special piece. I give The Greatest Beer Run Ever a Decent 8/10. One thing I am not a fan of is the marketing for this film. Apple has all the money in the world and for the life of me, I don’t understand why they didn’t promote this film with beer commercials or in bars across the country.