What a filmmaker does after they win a Best Picture Academy Award is an incredibly important thing.

It helps to define their future as a director, but also put into greater context their award-winning film as either fluke or part of a larger catalog of elite work.

It usually takes several years, if not longer, to see a follow-up film from this caliber of filmmaker and in the case of Green Book writer/director Peter Farrelly, it’s been four years since his biopic dramedy won at the 91stAcademy Awards.

In the meantime, Farrelly has been dedicating himself to television miniseries but has returned to the big screen earlier this month with another period historical road dramedy in partnership with Apple Original Films and Apple TV+.

Based on a true story, The Greatest Beer Run Ever follows a wayward Merchant Marine living in 1960s New York who on a drunken dare decides to travel to Vietnam in the middle of the Vietnam War in order to provide an in-person thank you to his neighborhood friends serving overseas with a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon. Along the way, “Chickie” Donohue is confronted with the realities of an international conflict that no one really understood unless they lived through it themselves.

Stylistically, Beer Run feels incredibly similar to Green Book. Farrelly takes another fish-out-of-water character and trains the camera on him for two hours as he is dumped in the middle of an unexpected land.

High School Musical star Zac Efron is woefully miscast in the lead role of Chickie, not by any fault of Efron’s performance but rather an inability of Farrelly to adequately give Efron the character development necessary to really shine.

In Efron’s performance, Chickie is inept and outrageously lucky despite himself that is described as dumb by other characters in the film and while Efron plays the role with an affable charm, it’s not entirely a believable performance that fully honors the unique story that Farrelly and his team are trying to tell.

This could have been a performance that would have worked much better had Efron been one of a larger ensemble cast, but because Beer Run requires him to be the sole focus of the entire film and the only character that audiences truly spend more than five minutes with, there’s too much burden on Efron’s shoulders to elevate a middling at best screenplay that lacks complex characters.

There is a slight accent issue that becomes more tolerable as the film wears on, although it’s never quite clear if Efron is using an affectation based on the real person he’s portraying or creating his own amalgamation of conflicting Boston and New York accents.

Beer Run has moments where Efron is truly enjoyable, usually in the lighter, more comedic scenes but when the film turns more serious, he tries his best to maintain a proper balance but can’t quite stick the dramatic landing.

The two most famous of Efron’s co-stars are memorable in Beer Run though neither truly get enough screen time to bring out the best of their capabilities.

Bill Murray as a retired colonel/bar owner is exceptionally gruff and while it’s easy to see how the young men admire him, Farrelly terribly underwrites the character in his significance.

To a lesser extent, the same is true of Russell Crowe’s war photographer Arthur Coates who has a confusing mentor relationship with Efron’s Chickie that works better than it probably should thanks to Crowe’s more stoic, dramatic performance.

Much of the film’s third act solidifies Efron as being a fish-out-of-water in large part thanks to how demonstrably Crowe’s Arthur remains calm amid chaos to counteract Chickie’s frantic nature.

There are some solid visual moments in Beer Run, largely in the film’s more dramatic battle sequences and though the brutality of the war isn’t explored in detail, there are times in which audiences can feel a small amount of the impact.

Beer Run will likely be left out of awards season consideration due to its middling performance, which helped Apple decide to push their Will Smith period drama Emancipation up to be their primary contender in 2022.

It’s somewhat frustrating that a film like The Greatest Beer Run Ever never really got a large theatrical release especially in the more rural areas where Farrelly’s Green Book played exceptionally well in and it’s unlikely that the at home experience on Apple TV+ will live up to what could have been on the big screen this holiday season. 

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