The Greatest Beer Run Ever Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Based on the real-life event of John ‘Chickie’ Donohue’s travel through war-torn Vietnam, Farrelly’s bio-pic takes some liberties in telling the story!
Genre: Bio-Pic / Comedy / Drama / War
Director: Peter Farrelly
Cast: Zac Efron, Russell Crowe, Ruby Ashbourne Sirkis, Jake Picking, Archie Renaux, Matt Cook, Kevin K. Tran, Bill Murray & Paul Adelstein.
Run Time: 126 min.
US Release: 30 September 2022 (Apple TV+)
UK Release: 30 September 2022 (Apple TV+)
German Release: 30 September 2022 (Apple TV+)
I did not hear of this feature, prior to its release on Apple’s streaming platform. I also had no clue what it was about, though the title, as well as the poster, awoke my interest. So after watching it, I needed to do some background checks and what I found, I could not believe. Farrelly’s latest picture is actually based on the memoirs of John Donohue, who really set off on this mad adventure! Of course, liberties were taken with the whole account, nonetheless, it made this experience so much better! So grab a cold one, sit down and glide with me through my review for The Greatest Beer Run Ever…
A biopic about Chickie Donohue’s real adventure from late 1967 to early 1968, as he left New York to bring beer to his childhood buddies, who were fighting in the Vietnam War. It is a story too crazy to not be true!
Now, I haven’t read Donohue’s autobiography, which this flick is based on, so I can’t say if it veers off too much from its source material. However, it is a light-hearted, be it a little too long, war dramedy that pushes all the right buttons emotionally, for the audiences to care enough about the lead character. It also sways away from the actual conflict, turning it into a background side plot. Focusing rather on the persona of ‘Chickie’ and his disconnection from the world, as he tries to find purpose again in life, an aspect that is magnificently managed.
Politically, the plot stays somewhere in the middle ground, exploring the complex matter from one angle, just to pivot the situation and investigate it from the other side. It is fair to say, though, that Peter Farrelly tried to keep the issue of the Vietnam War somewhat light-hearted and at a distance, not wanting to delve too deep into the subject. A genuine issue of course, since the setting is the war itself.
The screenplay manages to balance comedy plus drama well; the movie was surprisingly funny while maintaining a serious tone. The third act surprises with a dramatic turn of events, that also marks Chickie finally waking up to the real world. Sadly, the first 25 minutes are somewhat of a drag and could have been shortened. It also loses steam during the final moments, unsure when to fade into black.
Conversations are mostly kept in a light tone, with serious subject matter brushed over quickly. Swearing comes up a few times but it is all in good spirits, or as part of a joke. Thick New York accents are employed during the segments in the US
Zac Efron carries the flick by himself, having been cast as the main persona. He is very likeable plus charming as Donohue, paying him as somewhat of a lucky doofus. That said, he is the only one in the whole cast, who did not manage to pull off the New York accent. His bodily physic is also a little unbelievable, for such a slacker. Chickie himself is stuck in a dream world, never succeeding to anything in life. He is a patriotic dreamer, who believes that fighting for one's country suffices to be a hero, yet he also feels remorseful for letting his buddies deploy, while he himself is sitting comfortably in the States, getting drunk.
Ruby Ashbourne Sirkis plays Donohue’s little sister Christine. Sirkis managed to pull off what Efron couldn't, giving a good impression of a New York accent. Christine is the complete contrary of John, protesting against the war, as well as questioning the reason for the government deploying soldiers in Vietnam. She also serves as the final push, leading Chickie to pack and head for ‘Nam.
Russel Crowe has a much smaller role than marketed. Portraying reporter Arthur Coates, who is disillusioned by the lies the American government is telling the public. For Coates it is thus even more important, to show the public what is actually happening in that war. Coates is meant to serve as a moral compass for Donohue, though only makes a pivotal appearance in the third act.
In terms of cinematography, Sean Porter was employed as director of photography. Lingering shots and pans are used to full effect, be it to let emotional moments sink in, or to show the horrors of war. Flashback sequences are included, to visualise the lead character’s feelings of guilt. The image has a grey matt colour grading that suits the time-setting this plays in, while the illumination used, keeps night-time sequences bright enough for audiences to make out what is happening.
Effects are mostly practical, with solid action scenes that involve actual explosions. Wounds look realistic and terrifying, while costumes are suitable for the period’s era. Principal photography took partially place in Thailand, modified successfully to look like Vietnam in the late 60s, with its cities, cars plus military tents.
The soundtrack by Dave Palmer is full of rock ‘n’ roll riffs, suitable for the era it plays in. It also uses popular songs of that time from CSNY, The Hombres and others.
Verdict: Peter Farrelly’s take on John Donohue’s autobiography, is perfectly balanced in terms of comedy and drama, packing an unbelievable emotional punch during the third act. That said, the theme of the Vietnam War is only tackled on a surface level, never wanting to fully commit to it. Front and centre of this bio-pic is the character of John ‘Chickie’ Donohue, who lives most of his day in a drunken stupor, completely out of touch with the outside world. This starts to slowly change once he embarks on his adventure. The character's approachability is thanks to a marvellous performance by Efron, who practically carries the whole feature on his shoulders. Crowe, who is listed as co-lead, is barely in it! The cinematography is excellent and the music suiting. This might not be a qualitative great film, but it is enjoyably entertaining! The Greatest Beer Run Ever deserves a 7.0 out of 10!
Did you see this Apple TV+ production? Leave a comment to let me know what you thought of it. Thank you very much for reading!