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'The Greatest Beer Run Ever' review: Lively true store undone by formulaic cliches

Courtesy of Apple TV+


Peter Farrelly’s follow-up to his Oscar winning “Green Book,” “The Greatest Beer Run Ever” is yet another fascinating true story that gets the ham-fisted, melodrama cinematic treatment. Only this one doesn’t have the benefit of Mahershala Ali who elevated the Hallmark-y elements of “Green Book” beyond the limitations of its unfocused screenplay. Here, Zac Efron, who is an underrated and versatile actor, struggles to steer his own path in this well intentioned, though misguided “based-on-a-true-story” narrative about a directionless, late twenties working class stiff who decides the best way to help his Vietnam enlisted buddies circa 1967 is to deliver them ice cold beer from the boroughs of New York City.

Efron, sporting a heavy Brooklyn accent, plays real-life figure John “Chickie” Donohue, a seasonal ship worker who, when the movie opens, is squatting on his parent’s couch and is often found sleeping in late Sunday mornings after a night of binge drinking with his local New York City crew. He’s an “America first” type of guy who fully supports the war effort overseas and talks about “respecting the office of the president,” and even argues with his little sister about the justification for invading Vietnam. Of course, all these discussions in Farrelly and co-writers Brian Hayes Currie and Pete Jones screenplay is surface level at best, as is the entirety of the film which desperately wants to make a statement but comes up short at nearly every checkpoint.

It does, however, give audiences someone to root for in Chickie, who’s midnight-hour decision of packing up a duffle bag full of PBRs and Budweiser and transporting them oversees to his deployed buddies is an admirable one. Once there, he meets photojournalist Coates (Russell Crowe – cashing an easy paycheck) who gives him the cold-hard truth about what’s happening behind enemy lines, forcing the once ardent supporter of the United States most unwanted war to have his come to Jesus’ moment: War is bad, and people die!

Mind you, there’s nothing wrong about serving your country, but “The Greatest Beer Run Ever” does very little to champion those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. We watch as Chickie bounces around the battlefield, smoothly chatting his way onto military charter planes heading to Saigon and other heavily fortified war zones like a breeze. But really, what “The Greatest Beer Run Ever” becomes is a shameless piece of propagandic garb consisting of several airless sequences around unity, peace, and trying to bridge the divide between the media and citizens. It didn't work, but it did make me want to grab a beer afterwards. 

Grade: C-

THE GREATEST BEER RUN EVER opens in select theaters and streams on APPLE TV+ Friday, September 30th.


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