Capsule Review: The Greatest Beer Run Ever (2022)

Peter Farrelly is back and after he took an unexpected detour directing the otherwise feel-good 2018 biographical comedy-drama Green Book to a controversial Oscar glory (it won the Best Picture), one might have thought he would return to his familiar roots in a gross-out comedy. But instead, Peter Farrelly continues to embrace his post-Green Book route by tackling another true story in his latest movie called The Greatest Beer Run Ever.

A true story that I found hard to believe but it actually happened in 1968 when John “Chickie” Donohue set out on an unlikely mission to Vietnam. That mission in question turned out to be delivering cans of beers to some of the soldiers from his neighbourhood that were enlisted to fight in the Vietnam War. It may sound dumb but it’s hard to deny that it was an interesting true-story premise. Well, at least on paper but unfortunately, the execution falls flat, thanks to Peter Farrelly’s uninspired direction.

This is a pity because Zac Efron, who plays John “Chickie” Donohue brings enough movie-star charisma to his character and he’s equally likeable too. His decision to personally deliver cans of beers — Pabst Blue Ribbon, to be exact — in a duffel bag may sound like a preposterous suicide mission. But it was a well-intentioned mission because he wanted to do something meaningful by supporting the American troops who risk their lives fighting in the war.

Zac Efron and Russell Crowe in Apple TV+'s "The Greatest Beer Run Ever" (2022)

So, throughout the journey, he manages to make it to different places around war-torn Vietnam and passes out beers to his neighbourhood soldier buddies. He also meets a war correspondent named Arthur Coates (Russell Crowe) and during his time in Vietnam, he begins to learn the ugly and bitter truth about these soldiers fighting in Vietnam War. That war is all hell and it’s nothing like the mass media and TV news back home suggested otherwise.

The thing is, Farrelly’s way of telling a true story from the eyes of a naive young man (Zac Efron’s John “Chickie” Donohue) is overly simplified and superficial. The Vietnam War scenario that Chickie witnesses from his own eyes barely looks hellish, messy and gritty. There is no sense of palpable danger, which in turn, makes Chickie’s journey to bring some beers to his friends as if a walk in the park. By failing to show the horror of war, it’s hard to invest what Chickie has been experiencing throughout his dangerous “beer run” mission.

Not to mention Farrelly’s attempt to inject comedy into a war drama fails to bring any worthwhile sense of humour. The would-be-inspired casting decisions which include Russell Crowe and Bill Murray, where the latter plays a small role as the retired silver-haired colonel-turned-bartender, can’t do much to save the movie. A wasted opportunity.

The Greatest Beer Run Ever is currently streaming on Apple TV+.

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