It is 1967. While many friends and acquaintances of New York’s Chickie Donohue (Zac Efron) are fighting in Vietnam, he is annoyed by the protests against the war in his neighbourhood. Donohue himself has served for four years and believes that Americans should be “proud” of their men. So he decides – Efron’s character turns out to be a heavy drinker, and the film is an advertisement for alcoholism – to stuff a heap of beer in a backpack and travel to Vietnam with his own hands, to get all his mates a beer there and thereby give them a heart. to put the belt on. The first hour of The Greatest Beer Run Ever is therefore characterized by unvarnished patriotism.
But along the way, Donohue learns that the struggle the United States is waging is one from which it will not emerge as the moral winners. By the time he comes to that conclusion, however, we have already reached the end. The fact that this tragicomedy was made by Peter Farrelly explains a few things: in 2018 he already made the three Oscar-winning Green Book – in which stereotypes about black people are shamelessly reviewed – and is more or less of the motto ‘everything was better in the past’. The nature of The Greatest Beer Run is therefore undeniably conservative.
The film could also have been made in the 80s and tells nothing new about the Vietnam War within the context of American foreign policy. About the only time Donohue comes into contact with a Vietnamese is when he encounters a young girl somewhere in the Vietnamese countryside – which should represent a moment of serenity and mutual understanding. Also cringe-inducing are the Asian clichés that Farrelly performs, such as a Vietnamese on the street who has a caricatured image of American pop culture – was that really necessary for the unfolding of the plot?
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After all, it’s admirable that Farrelly has also put Russell Crowe and Bill Murray up for grabs. Crowe plays a skeptical photographer who, at one point, believes Donohue is a hero; Murray a whiny bartender with blinders on. And speaking of heroism: that is The Greatest Beer Run Ever in a nutshell: a flawed film about a man who became a hero in the eyes of the makers, but who eventually repented by acknowledging the futility of the war – the latter, however, is skilfully brushed under the carpet by Farrelly.
We must be able to laugh, seems the insufferable message in this example of falsification of history.