September 19, 2022

Toronto Film Festival Review: “The Greatest Beer Run Ever”


THE GREATEST BEER RUN EVER (Apple – September 30):  Peter Farrelly’s Green Book was one of the clearest beneficiaries of winning Toronto’s People Choice Award, vaulting from being entirely under the awards radar to a (somewhat divisive) Oscar for Best Picture a few months later.  No doubt the premiere of his follow-up The Greatest Beer Run Ever at TIFF was an attempt to see lightning strike again.  (It didn’t happen, as The Fabelmans took the People’s Choice Award.)  Nor will Greatest Beer Run be able to prove itself as a box office hit, since it starts streaming on Apple+ in a few weeks.  The movie itself, like Green Book, is an example of White Guy Learns A Lesson cinema.  In Green Book, the Viggo Mortensen character was educated about racism, and here Chickie Donohue (Zac Efron) learns that the Vietnam War was more complicated than the complacent the-government-must-be-right viewpoint of his Noo Yawk neighborhood, personified by a local bar-owner called the Colonel (Bill Murray, in a role that’s barely more than a cameo).  Chickie’s education is enabled by his impulsive decision to reassure his neighborhood pals in-country that they’re in everyone’s thoughts by traveling to Vietnam with a duffel bag full of beers and personally delivering them.  It helps that Chickie is a merchant seaman, but this is still a nutso plan (based on a true story), as everyone Chickie meets along the way informs him.  Even putting aside the superficiality of the concept, Greatest Beer Run, as written by Farrelly, Brian Currie and Pete Jones, doesn’t deliver any meaningful lessons.  Chickie learns little about the history or ideology of the war, it’s just that he’s unlucky enough to be there during the Tet Offensive, and he’s radicalized when his hide is in danger.  Unlike Green Book, which worked because of the byplay between its two main characters, Efron has to carry Greatest Beer Run by himself, and although his performance is fine, there’s no one to push him as an actor or Chickie as a character.  Even Russell Crowe, who gives the best performance in the film as a jaded photo-journalist, is playing someone who tutors Chickie rather than bonds with him.  The real lessons of The Greatest Beer Run Ever are that with a Best Picture Oscar under his belt, Farrelly was able to indulge himself in the overstuffed (126 minutes) and the obvious.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."