Watching Peter Farrelly’s new movie, The greatest beer race of all time, and knowing little about it, I kept thinking it would be a totally absurd and unbelievable story if it wasn’t a story that actually happened. In the end, I saw that it was indeed 100% true, proving that life can sometimes be stranger than fiction. As such, it turns out to be one of the most memorable and certainly heartfelt films of this year, as well as a Vietnam War movie that couldn’t be further from The deer hunter, platoon, and Apocalypse now, but a character-driven drama that defies logic but once again makes you believe in the power of the human spirit. It’s the rare Vietnamese film seen from a civilian’s perspective, one of the main reasons it works so well.
This is Farrelly’s first film since winning the Oscars for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay in 2018. green book, and whether it’s his lucky day or not, it just had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in the same timeslot and same day of the week as green book premiered at TIFF. This film went on to win the often predictive TIFF People’s Choice Award at the Oscars. Can lightning strike twice? It really doesn’t matter because it’s a film that defiantly challenges its own drummer. It also gives Zac Efron one of the best roles of his career and Russell Crowe his second choice supporting role this year.
Efron plays John “Chickie” Donohue, a regular guy who spends much of his time with his buddies at Doc Fiddler’s bar in Inwood, New York. It’s 1967 and the Vietnam War is in full swing. Protests against this are also gaining strength, but Chickie and her friends, along with bartender Doc aka “The Colonel” (Bill Murray in a brief, toned-down supporting role) come up with a crazy idea to support their neighborhood mates whose numbers are came. and serve in war. The idea is simple, but seems a bit over the top: what if they could bring some home to the front lines by sharing a good old-fashioned can of beer with the soldiers?
Chickie may not be serving in the war himself, but he’s a merchant sailor and very familiar with transport ships, which is essential for getting to Saigon, so he volunteers, packs a duffel bag filled with dozens of cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer (a product placement bonanza) and gets a job in the boiler room of a ship bound for Saigon. Incredibly, he finds himself in the thick of an increasingly contentious war, ready to hand out his cans of beer and use the information to hunt down neighborhood guys wherever they are on the battlefields. Dressed casually as he does in New York, the agents first wonder if the guy is some kind of CIA agent with an agenda. Soon, however, he’s in over his head as he must escape danger with some old buddies caught up in something that’s definitely no game, like his friend Tommy Collins (Archie Renaux). There’s also a trip to a bar where he meets journalists covering the war, including Arthur Coates (Crowe), a grizzled war photographer who initially dismisses the odd Chickie, but soon becomes intrigued by her mad declared mission, a mission that he makes heard a lot. easier logistically than it actually is. Engaging in a sort of instant camaraderie and partnership with Arthur, Chickie finds herself dodging bullets, bombs, and frightening encounters on the battlefield as he does what he came to do there, and finds himself in makes a lot of friends who are alternately shocked, amused, and horrified to see him, especially since he offers his gift of beer with the explanation that this is the only reason he came to Vietnam. Chickie will discover, as many of us have, that this war is not all it says it is and he quickly learns what is really going on, thanks in large part to Arthur, the friends who are in hell on earth, and witnessing acts of barbarism where he would least expect to find them.
As things get worse for him, the stakes rise in terms of getting home safe and sound, but it’s an experience that will change this young man forever. Based on a book written by Donohue and JT Molloy, Farrelly, Brian Currie (green book), and Pete Jones have written a screenplay that captures the somewhat innocent but capable spirit of this unique individual who has kindness in his heart and just wants to do something for guys who have suddenly found themselves on the front lines of a war that became extremely unpopular. You can also call it a wake up call for Chickie himself. Yes, this all sounds crazy, but the real Donohue had served four years in the Marines and had been to Vietnam three times before as a merchant seaman and he had the right security clearances to be able to pull this off and work on a transport ship which normally brings ammo and supplies, but this time with Chickie on board, Beer. Living at home again and traveling in circles with great support for the war, well with the exception of his own sister Christine (Ruby Ashbourne Serkis) who sees things differently, Chickie thinks he’s made the good thing and he is, but what he discovers on his travels with beer across the country, what he witnesses with his own eyes will change him. It’s quite an adventure, to say the least.
Efron is ideally cast, although he’s a guy with military training and know-how, it’s his basic humanity and concern for his friends that makes him so endearing. Curiously, he’s almost an innocent, until he is not. The character is an eye-opener, and it’s such an interesting story to show a side of the war that we haven’t seen in the movies yet. In fact, Farrelly was first drawn to a 2015 You Tube 12-minute documentary about the story you have to see to believe, as well as the bestselling book, “The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A True Story”. friendship stronger than war. He immediately knew there was a movie in there somewhere. He was right. The cast is important here too, and Crowe is a great choice as a war-torn columnist with a camera. After a very fun twist this summer in Thor: Love and Thunder this supporting turn is once again proof that this is an actor who can do just about anything. Jake Picking, Kyle Allen, Will Ropp and Will Hochman are among the other young men who feature in the story.
An Apple Original Film in association with Skydance, The greatest beer race of all time also has excellent cinematography by Sean Porter and was produced by David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Andrew Muscato (who also directed this 12-minute You Tube docu) and Jake Myers. It will play in theaters before it begins streaming on September 30.