THE GREATEST BEER RUN (2022) l AppleTV+ | September 30, 2022
Starring: Zac Efron, Russell Crowe, Bill Murray
Director: Peter Farrelly
A man's story of leaving New York in 1967 to bring beer to his childhood buddies in the Army while they are fighting in Vietnam.
TIFF REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
The Greatest Beer Run Ever is a truly entertaining adventure full of heart, featuring one of Zac Efron’s strongest dramatic performances to date.
Following up his Academy Award winning film Green Book, writer director Peter Farrell has set his sight on another true story of friendship, but this time it’s more in line with his comedy roots. His latest film tells the story of Chickie Donohue, a young man who leaves New York and travels to Vietnam during the middle of the Vietnam War to bring beers to his neighbourhood buddies who are serving in the war. It’s hard to believe that this is a true story, because it is the most absurd premise, but Chickie Donohue did in fact set out on this adventure to Vietnam back in 1967. And what ensues is a story full of laughs and heart as Chickie goes on an unforgettable journey to find his friends in Vietnam.
We see some great laughs during the drinking games that ensue, or as Chickie pretends to be CIA so he can be flown around Vietnam by the military as civilian travel is near impossible due to the war. At the same time, it’s an eye-opening journey for Chickie as he experiences the horrors of the Vietnam War first hand and sees the reason why there is civil unrest in the United States over their involvement in the war. There is no doubt that the horrors of the Vietnam War are sugar coated for the film, as it only scratches the surface of the true gravity of the situation. The film provides a good introduction to the subject matter for viewers who may be unfamiliar with the history of the Vietnam War, and for those who are familiar with the events, it captures what is necessary for this film to accurately depict what happened during the war. The screenplay instead focuses on Chickie as a character and you can see the development in his understanding of the war and his country’s involvement, showing true growth over the course of his adventure. It’s a heartwarming story that is an easy sell to audiences as it is fun and full of laughs, combined with personal growth that will warm your heart and have you smiling from ear to ear.
So much of this is because of Zac Efron’s lead performance. Efron has always been an enjoyable lead actor with films like High School Musical, The Greatest Showman and Neighbours, largely starring in musicals and comedies where his natural charm always helped deliver an enjoyable performance. And that natural charm lends well to the film’s first two acts as you watch this young man just up and decide to go to Vietnam to deliver beer to his buddies. Add in the moustache and his Italian accent, and Efron is great in the role. But once the film begins to touch on the horrors of the Vietnam War in the final act, Efron shows versatility as an actor as he finds vulnerability within Chickie, who based on appearance is your man’s man with little emotional range. The horrors he experiences in Vietnam change Chickie, and Efron captures this splendidly in his portrayal, creating an individual that will not only have the audience laughing for the majority of the film, but also one you deeply care for and will root for from start to finish.
Russell Crowe has a small supporting role as one of the news correspondents that Chickie encounters in Vietnam. The role allows Crowe to tap into his grouchy inner old man, while still providing that wisdom and knowledge to Chickie that audiences have come to expect from such a great actor like Crowe. The young actors playing Chickie’s friends, namely Kyle Allen, Jake Picking and Will Ropp are all good, each portraying a different experience of the Vietnam War to inform Chickie along his journey, but they do not get more than five minutes of screentime each nor the chance to show their true talents. Ruby Ashbourne Serkis makes a memorable impact on the film as Chickie’s younger sister protesting the war, helping Efron to deliver that beautiful closing scene of the film which drives the film’s message about the Vietnam War home and its heart.
And what better casting could Farrelly have gotten for the owner of Chickie’s local bar other than Bill Murray, who is excellent in his two very small scenes, delivering laughs as only Bill Murray can. Given the setting of the late 1960s, the film has a fun soundtrack that keeps the atmosphere of the film light for the first two acts as Chickie sets out on his journey that will have you grooving along in your seat. I don’t see this film having the awards race legs that Green Book had, but I have no doubt in my mind that it will be a hit on AppleTV+ later this month as audiences will have a great time watching the film. A true crowd pleaser from start to finish, Peter Farrelly’s The Greatest Beer Run Ever is a truly fun film that lets Zac Efron shine from start to finish, delivering one of the most enjoyable films of the year so far.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5