A New Yorker sneaks into the Vietnam War to deliver beers to his friends in The Greatest Beer Run Ever. John “Chickie” Donohue (Zac Efron) is a Marine Corps veteran and merchant seaman in 1967 Inwood, New York. While Chickie's out drinking with friends, barkeep The Colonel (Bill Murray) expresses disgust at anti-Vietnam demonstrations in the city, saying that if he saw the people from the community currently fighting in the war, he would buy them a beer. Chickie decides to do just that as he sneaks into Vietnam with a duffel bag full of Pabst Blue Ribbon. However, Chickie soon learns the horrific realities of the war, particularly after encountering Look Magazine photographer Arthur Coates (Russell Crowe).
Following the Oscar-winning success of 2018's Green Book, co-writer and director Peter Farrelly returns with his second solo directorial effort, The Greatest Beer Run Ever, which is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Joanna Molloy and John “Chickie” Donohue. The film stars Zac Efron as Chickie, who believe those fighting for their country deserve respect. Naive about the true nature of the Vietnam War, Chickie sneaks behind the frontlines to find all his friends and give them a beer.
Probably the most significant thing The Greatest Beer Run Ever has going against it is Peter Farrelly's history as a director of comedies with his brother Bobby, such as Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary. While Peter Farrelly got lucky with her move into more dramatic filmmaking with Green Book, a film that has since received much backlash, from the very start, the set-up of The Greatest Beer Run Ever comes across as quite tone-deaf. We have a protagonist who is a blind patriot thinking it's OK to walk into an active warzone and give cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon to people from his community who probably couldn't care less.
It isn't until the final act of The Greatest Beer Run Ever that the film takes itself a bit more seriously. This has less to do with Zac Efron's performance and more with Russell Crowe, who is painfully underutilized as a photojournalist Arthur Coates. Crowe is so good in his brief role that I almost wish the entire film was about his character.
While films such as the 1987 Robin Williams classic Good Morning, Vietnam have proved that it's possible to have movies that provide a more lighthearted and comic take on the Vietnam War, The Greatest Beer Run Ever is sadly not one of those films.