Peter Farrelly’s follow-up to 2018’s controversial Best Picture, Green Book, was bound to have plenty of eyes on it. While Green Book was decently received according to major review aggregate sites, many (including a rightfully upset Spike Lee) believed that it was not deserving of the night’s biggest award. Now, four years and one Quibi show later, The Greatest Beer Run Ever comes to Apple TV+. This film, starring Zac Efron, is based on a true story set during the Conflict in Vietnam. Living in New York and watching all of his closest friends “doing one’s duty fighting for freedom,” Chickie Donohue decides to do something other than sit around his local watering hole: he is going to bring them their favorite beer straight from home. With nothing but a duffle bag full of PBR’s, Chickie makes it over to the frontlines, completely unaware of what awaits. Even Chickie’s biggest critics have to hand it to him; he made the journey, and he did his best getting there. It’s an inherently interesting story, mainly due to the fact that it actually did happen. Yet, it soon becomes abundantly clear that the strengths behind the Farrelly brothers’ critically-acclaimed comedies of the early 2000’s might very well be the downfall of this film. Steering clear of cynicism for a brief moment, the hook of the film is solid. Based on the premise alone, many will tune in out of sheer curiosity. However, when a film is made in the hopes of reaching such a broad audience, the filmmaker bears massive responsibility. And, in a case like this, such heavy subject matter only increases that burden. Thus, to see the Conflict in Vietnam handled with such irreverence at times is, quite frankly, horrifying. That isn't to say that a comedy about war cannot be pulled off but, rather, that it requires someone at the helm who can deftly handle the vital tonal shifts needed to accomplish such a feat. As Chickie stumbles into hitching a ride on a military plane deeper into Vietnam, he comes across bodies being unloaded as nonchalantly as cargo. In a stronger film, a moment such as this would be devastating to the character, and subsequently, the viewer. But when this troubling imagery is immediately followed by a needle drop, Farrelly thoughtlessly pushes the plot forward with nothing more than a short frown from Efron. Moments like these make up the majority of the first half of the film, even serving as pure punchlines at times. And, to make
matters worse, the jokes themselves often don’t even land. Without the empathetic core upon which humor can be built, this film quickly falls apart and becomes downright offensive and ill-considered.
Luckily, Efron is charismatic enough to hold the film together somewhat, even if he does remain a bit aloof to the fact that he is in the middle of a brutal and unjust conflict. And therein lies another reason why Farrelly falls short with films such as this and Green Book. By nature, all of the leads in a Farrelly film are meant to be inherently ignorant in some way to the world around them. From Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary to Shallow Hal, all of his lead characters are intentionally misguided. Obviously, in comedies such as those, that very essence of their character is where the comedic bits are extracted. However, in a film such as The Greatest Beer Run Ever, a lead character with those qualities makes it seem more like the most misguided comedy ever. To sanitize and simplify such a conflict through the eyes of a character with such one-dimensional beliefs begs the question: what does this film think of its audience? This screenplay spoon feeds the most basic morals to Chickie and the viewer, as if witnessing your peers in combat firsthand is the only possible way to learn that war is, in fact, chaotic and full of needless violence. Overall, it does feel unfortunate that this is the route Farrelly has chosen to take. Sure, he received the highest accolade he could have hoped for with Green Book, but at what cost? Perhaps Farrelly should begin to think more highly of audiences and their capacity for critical thought. Because if we begin to normalize the notion of serving viewers overly simplistic lessons on a silver platter, we will only continue to lower the lowest common denominator.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever premieres globally on September 30th, 2022 on Apple TV+.