New York City, 1967 John Donohue ( Zac Efron ), known only as Chickie to those around him, is a patriot through and through and as such naturally supports the boys in Vietnam. In theory at least. In practice, he doesn’t have it that much with the war: While more and more of his friends in the Far East are fighting for a good cause, he prefers to sit at home and drink beer. But then he decides to do his bit himself and travels to Vietnam on his own to bring his buddies the best American canned beer. The journey is actually without problems, and soon Chickie finds himself in the jungle. There, however, he has to realize that the situation is not quite what he expected…
For many years, the Peter Farrelly name has been synonymous with rough comedy, where people acted either stupid or tacky, sometimes both at the same time. It worked very well at first, and Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary were huge hits at the box office. Later, however, his star fell significantly, and the audience reacted increasingly indifferent to his crude jokes. That may have helped him try a different kind of film. Suddenly he actually wanted to say something, at least a little bit. That earned him ridicule. The masses liked the simple anti-racism feel-good bubble Green Book – A Special Friendship, however. In the end, there were even Oscars for best picture and best screenplay.
It remains to be seen whether he will be able to pull off this feat again in The Greatest Beer Run Ever, his first film since the surprise comeback. However, it is not particularly likely. The first reactions to the premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival 2022 were cautious. Even later, the enthusiasm for the exclusive on Apple TV + maintained available film within limits. The subject of war is just as important as that of racism, and unfortunately no less topical. The story, which is again based on a true fate, is also original. After all, who would come up with the stupid idea of traveling to the other end of the world, in the middle of a war zone, only to hand out cans of beer there? As an expression of patriotism?
This is amusing, especially at the beginning, when Farrelly focuses on the absurdity of this plan. Again and again, Chickie is in situations where he is stared at in disbelief by others or he completely misjudges the situation he is in. The Greatest Beer Run Ever also benefits massively from Zac Efron at this point. The heartthrob, which recently appeared mainly in thrillers – Gold – Im Rausch der Greed and Firestarter– shows off his often underestimated comedic talent as he stumbles wide-eyed through the abyss. Also entertaining is how the beer exporter is taken everywhere by the military because no one realizes what he’s really doing. After all, the story is so stupid that it can’t possibly be true.
It gets difficult, however, when Farrelly wants to achieve more than a you-won’t-believe-it war grotesque. Where he fought against racism at Green Book, it’s in The Greatest Beer Run Ever the war. Rejecting this is of course not reprehensible. Very few people would actually advocate war these days. Rather, the problem is that the director and co-author don’t really have the sensitivity to deal with such a topic. More than superficial minimum consensus commonplaces are not in it. In addition, there is the running time, which at more than two hours is too lavish for what the film is able to tell. That’s why it’s not bad, a few of the harsh reviews were a bit exaggerated. In view of the absurd scenario and the assembled talent, one should have expected more.