The Greatest Beer Run Ever (2022)

Peter Farrelly directs Zac Efron, Bill Murray and Russell Crowe in this war drama true story about a ne’er-do-well New Yorker who decides to bring a beer to each of his drinking buddies while they serve in Vietnam.

I’m about to type a sentence that lists a lot of decades. There was a real boom in the late Eighties and early Nineties for accessible films that dramatised big events of the recent past (the Fifties / the Sixties / the Seventies). Some might say your Driving Miss Daisys, Good Morning Vietnams and Forrest Gumps sanitised or even mollified the huge schismatic upheavals of near history. Taking big issues, ones still influencing the politics and injustices of the American present, and polishing them into nostalgic light entertainments. Not every film has to be as brutalising and as self-lacerating as Platoon. We know which movies have a more realistic bent on the past and which ones want to reframe civil and global trauma into something box office worthy. I’m of the school that there are room for both… you can take a less journalistic, less coroner’s report, approach to events from our lifetime and still make them sad and funny and add a little sparkle. But then again, I did grow up on a steady diet of Quantum Leap.

Peter Farrelly’s Oscar winning Green Book felt anachronistic when it scooped the Best Picture Oscar a few years back. A call back to a time when prestige and full houses mingled a little easier. Directed by a silly comedy hit maker, dealing with race and racism from a conservative white male POV and more jovial and adventurous than worthy or punitive. Yet… considering it was a box office hit aimed squarely at adults and was as entertaining as it was focussed on dealing with weighty issues… I was happy to enjoy it for it was – a really well made, salty bit of Hollywood product. In my eyes, it is one of the few recent Best Picture winners that a casual movie viewer might elect to rewatch for fun if it popped up near the top of their streaming menu on a Saturday night. The Greatest Beer Run Ever is a follow-up in very much the same mode. Much as the award winning road movie put a glossy and laugh worthy spin on racism, here the big gaping wound on America’s psyche (the failed occupation of Vietnam) is approached not from the vantage point of some bleeding heart liberals or gung-ho warmongers but of an average dude who believes what he reads in the paper and would vote for whoever could lower his taxes… if he could be bothered to vote.

A game Zac Efron is the glue that makes this unlikely mixture of fish-out-water comedy and occasionally hard hitting tragedy work. He’s a fun guy, sweet hearted, not particularly heroic, who brashly puts himself in a dumb but kinda admirable danger. All for the sake of being a decent human being on his own terms. And as he spends his improbable but seemingly true week in Vietnam handing out tinnies of Pabst Blue Ribbons, his eyes are opened to the destruction his people are bringing to this beautiful country, the brutalising violence his old drinking buddies are enduring and the lies his government has fed him and the folks back home. Did all this need to be said again? Possibly not. But that doesn’t stop this from being a very enjoyable, universal film with a fair bit more emotional grit and heft to it than teenage fantasies like a Fast X or your Black Adam.


Perfect Double Bill: Good Morning Vietnam (1987)

My wife and I do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here


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