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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

The Greatest Beer Run Ever: Review

Happy-go-lucky patriot Chickie Donohue decides to support his friends fighting in the Vietnam War by hand-delivering beers on the battlefield. Chickie's bizarre odyssey soon becomes a life-altering experience in The Greatest Beer Run Ever.

A so-crazy-its-true story seems like a fitting avenue for writer/director Peter Farrelly to expand his cinematic oeuvre. Farrelly made a name for himself in the 90s with crass comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary before striking Oscar gold with Green Book in 2018. The feel-good, albeit manipulative and highly controversial, dramedy showcased a more reflective side of Farrelly's crowdpleasing sensibilities. I didn't jive with Green Book's simplistic and self-satisfied perspective on racial discord. Still, I can't help my fascination with the auteur's sudden image change.

Unfortunately, Farrelly and his creative team strike out again with The Greatest Beer Run Ever. The spirited comedy/war drama clumsily weaves through complex and exceedingly relevant issues without a well-defined perspective.

I would at least call Beer Run a step in the right direction for Farrelly. His screenplay, co-written by Pete Jones and Brian Hayes Currie, presents a deft pulse on what Chickie's story should represent. The real-life figure's existence as a patronizing patriot whose understanding of service comes from an uneventful army stint in Massachusetts acts as an embracive upfront to parties condemning the Vietnam War's purpose.

Chickie's cocksure facade and undying nationalism quickly erode as he makes dizzying discoveries throughout his Vietnam trek. Meditations on the historic war's questionable politics and the spectrum of objective, critical and propaganda-based perspectives shaping its media image are worthwhile and exceedingly relevant to today's media-driven conditions. Yet, like any war film, Beer Run leaves its most pronounced statement by reflecting on war's brutal conflicts and the lingering damage left in its wake.

This sounds profoundly impactful on paper, but Beer Run's execution only presents flat sentiments on tap. Farrelly and his old-school embrace of sentimental, studio-friendly filmmaking choices lack cohesion with the material's vital undercurrent. Glimmers where the director tries to depict inhumane realities are frequently undercut by over-dramatized framing choices and tired inclusions of pop confectionary tracks from the era.

Visually, the film also adopts a pristine, studio-approved sheen that contrasts its harsher undertones. The assortment of heavy-handed aesthetics strains Beer Run's well-intended sentiments until they reach a state of maudlin theatrics. I can't say Farrelly's trademark comedic touches are a welcomed inclusion either, as the film often misses the boat on its tonal-hybrid design.

Farrelly's unsuccessful filmmaking approach extends to his screenplay. The trio of screenwriters fumbles viable insights by not adding much to the conversation. As a result, every theme of the movie lacks definition, with their undefined states ultimately serving as a reminder of the far superior war films Beer Run aspires to be. The lack of depth also limits the film's dive into Chickie's persona. Star Zac Efron deserves praise for injecting a sense of reflection and vulnerability into the character's odyssey into war-torn realities. I would consider it one of the actor's finest performances to date, although his skills can't compensate for the film's streamlined depiction of Chickie's evolution.

A character describes Chickie's journey as an "idiotic but noble gesture." Unfortunately, I can't help feeling the same about The Greatest Beer Run Ever. Despite well-meaning intentions, the film's shallow and inert execution fails to honor its overlooked slice of history.

The Greatest Beer Run Ever is now playing on Apple+.


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