The Greatest Beer Run Ever is an Apple TV+ Original movie directed by Peter Farrelly based on the true story of Chickie Donohue’s (Zac Efron) sojourn to Vietnam at the height of the war to deliver beers to some of his friends. A bit aloof and a complete patriot, Chickie is maligned by his father for being lazy, his sister for blindly supporting the war, and his friends for talking a big talk with nothing to show for it. So, to prove everybody wrong, he stumbles his way across the world with a duffle bag full of beers to bring to a few of his friends and neighbors in the war.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever is so close to being a good movie. It has the makings of one in so many ways. It’s an outrageous concept, it has a strong cast, and there are some serious lessons to be learned with parallels to modern politics all the while. Unfortunately, the movie just doesn’t quite fulfill any of those potentials completely. It’s a fine enough flick. If you like war movies or just Zack Efron’s style of lovable oafs, you’re not going to hate this. It’s just ultimately not all that satisfying.
I truly cannot believe that the movie is based on a true story. Or even more so, that I had never heard this story before. Because it is quite the tall tale. A random civilian blunders their way into Vietnam just so he can deliver a few beers? You couldn’t dream up a more ridiculous plot. And in general, it does work. Efron’s constantly clinging to his duffle bag no matter what happens is as endearing as it is comedic—which is to say, it’s not the pinnacle of comedic achievement, but it does make you feel something for his commitment.
It’s a plot though that is severely held back by a mediocre-at-best script. The percentage of the dialogue that had me rolling my eyes was quite high, whether it was because it was just egregious exposition dumping, a tongue-in-cheek reference to Neighbors, or just painfully obviously modern political talk. It’s a movie that is trying to tell instead of show when it frankly doesn’t need to. Efron does more than enough solid acting to show the emotional journey he’s going on for himself. It’s an impressive blend of his now-trademark goofiness with some of the most sincere work he’s ever done. On its own, the acting is pretty impressive from him.
The problem is that this good acting mixed with bad dialogue leaves his journey feeling empty, ultimately. It’s impossible to really tell what lesson he winds up learning along the way because the look on his face and the words coming out of his mouth don’t fully line up. And not necessarily in a way that’s intentionally demonstrating cognitive dissonance. I think there’s just truly a disconnect between the acting and the writing. There are a few golden moments of introspection after disturbing moments, but they’re brief and fleeting, so by the end, this is quite frustrating. Of all the possible lessons Chickie could have learned and all the lessons the audience could have learned through him, I’m not convinced he actually learned any of them.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever by no means has to deliver a concrete moral or modern political message. But because the movie isn’t a full-on comedy and because keeps pulling quotes from modern political discourse, and because you know that Chickie is meant to be changed because of his experience, not being able to articulate what his new politics or new stands are by the end just feels like a failure of the movie to fully fulfill what it seems to have intended to have done.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever does have its stronger moments though. They mostly come in the form of good acting moments for Efron or in his interactions with journalist Coates (Russell Crowe). Crowe’s dialogue tends to be better than average and his nonchalant delivery of everything is a perfect foil for Efron. And certainly from top to bottom the movie is pretty funny. But the humor is more subtle than perhaps you’d expect from a movie with such a ridiculous conceit, so, it’s hard to call it a true comedy.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever gets so close to being a good movie but is held back by weak dialogue and never quite just saying what it seemingly means to be saying about war, masculinity, politics, or otherwise. It’s fairly entertaining and most definitely has its moments, but it’s hard not to feel like the movie it could have been had it leaned harder into either its comedy or its message is better than the movie we actually got.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever is streaming now on Apple TV+ and is playing in select theaters.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever
The Greatest Beer Run Ever gets so close to being a good movie but is held back by weak dialogue and never quite just saying what it means to be saying about war, masculinity, politics, or otherwise. It’s fairly entertaining and most definitely has its moments, but it’s hard not to feel like the movie it could have been had it leaned harder into either its comedy or its message is better than the movie we actually got.