Set in 1967, The Greatest Beer Run Ever tells the true story of John ‘Chickie’ Donohue (Zac Efron), a young New Yorker who loves his boys, his beer and his country. As the Vietnam war continues to escalate, Chickie and his friends at home are sitting in a bar, talking about what they can do to support the troops. Then, in a drunken dare, his friends challenge him to go overseas and send their friends a message of support from home in the form of some American beer. Fearing that they’ll think him a failure, he accepts and sets out across the ocean, with his cargo in tow. What Chickie doesn’t anticipate, however, is the horrors of war that await him. Teaming with Coates (Russell Crowe), a photographer on a mission to tell the truth, Chickie soon realizes that the troops are going to need a lot more than a few brews to survive this tragedy.
Directed by Peter Farrelly, The Greatest Beer Run Ever may live up to its name, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t entirely worth the trip. Throughout the film, Farrelly goes out of his way to both support the troops and deny the war by highlighting the men who sacrifice their lives on behalf of the cause. (It’s worth noting that there are no women in the military on this Beer Run.) However, at the same time, Farrelly also wants to show the violence and horrors of war in ways to changes Chickie’s mind along the way.
But that may be the problem. Despite his growing skill behind the camera, Farrelly still leans into the humour as opposed to the horror. As a result, despite the opportunity to show the true damage of war, Farrelly pulls his punches when the film approaches difficult social issues. While violence and gore are not essential in a war film, Farrelly seems to hold back the worst aspects of war, allowing the audience to feel safer in the conversation than had it been left in the hands of another filmmaker. As a result, Beer Run is held back from becoming something truly memorable, despite its intriguing premise and some enjoyable performances.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever premiered at TIFF ’22. For more information, click here.