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TIFF Film Review: ‘The Greatest Beer Run Ever’ Uses Good Intentions to Make for a Decently Good Time

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A few years ago at the Toronto International Film Festival, Green Book played and parlayed a lot of the goodwill it generated into a Best Picture win at the Oscars. Fast-forward to 2022 and The Greatest Beer Run Ever is making its Toronto debut, potentially hoping for the same path. While Academy Award attention seems unlikely, the movie does offer up a lot of what made that flick somewhat work, packaged in something far less controversial. As far as mostly benign dramedies at TIFF go, this is above average, warranting a pretty mild recommendation. Thumbs up or thumbs down, it seems unlikely anyone will make too much of a fuss about this one.

The Greatest Beer Run Ever is hardly the most ambitious film ever made, but it works on its own terms. Truthfully, it’s a dad movie, the type of thing that he would find playing on cable once, enjoy, and then revisit anytime he found it running again. Consumed with that mindset, it’s hard not to see the effectiveness of this one. It’s only when you elevate it to prestige fare that things fall apart.

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Merchant Marine Chickie Donohue (Zac Efron) is passing the time during the Vietnam War in New York. His friends, however, are aboard fighting. While at a bar run by The Colonel (Bill Murray) one night, a thought occurs to him. Wanting to show some support for his neighborhood friends serving overseas, Chickie decides to do something pretty stupid. His plan? Nothing short of traveling to the frontlines, by himself, no less, to bring the guys cans of their favorite American beer.

Chickie means well, but no sooner does he arrive in Vietnam than he sees that this lark is not necessarily what’s needed. Sure, it was easier than expected to get over there, but getting out will be another story entirely. Plus, as he tags along with a photographer (Russell Crowe), the cost of war rings home for him, forcing Chickie to grow up in a hurry.

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Zac Efron has a more dramatic role than usual to essay here, but he’s more than up to the task. He’s at his best in the lighter moments, for sure, but never falls short when things get heavier. He’s pretty much in every scene, so it’s a good thing he makes it work, too. Bill Murray steals a bit of the early going before largely disappearing, while Russell Crowe is solid, if unspectacular. So, it’s all on Efron’s plate. Supporting players include Kyle Allen, Matt Cook, Jake Picking, Archie Renaux, Will Ropp, Ruby Ashbourne Serkis, and more.

Director/co-writer Peter Farrelly continues his affable solo ways after Green Book here. Co-writing with Brian Hayes Currie and Pete Jones, it all seems to be in service of making a solid dad movie. The film definitely moves from one scene to the next, even if the over two hour runtime is a bit more than necessary. Nothing in The Greatest Beer Run Ever jumps out at you, but there are no glaring flaws, either. It’s just un-showy yet solid work. Farrelly is dipping into Vietnam War cliches and cherrypicking his history, but it’s in service of something that won’t get your dander up nearly as much as his last time out did.

The Greatest Beer Run Ever is, as mentioned above, the type of movie that would play forever on cable, back when that was a thing. Of course, this one will instead be on Apple TV+ for those who subscribe. Regardless, it’s a mildly good time that’s an easy watch. Don’t presume Oscar hopes on this one, despite its TIFF bow, and you’ll likely have a decently enjoyable time with it.

SCORE: ★★★


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Written by Joey Magidson

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