In 1967, Chickie Donohue was already out of the Marines and his pals, a couple of years younger, were sent to Vietnam. Chickie was for the war, naively, and wanted to help his buddies. So he boarded a merchant marine ship to Saigon to deliver beers to a bunch of friends. He just ignored the dangers. He was a happy go lucky guy.
Chickie’s adventure became a book, “The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” written with Joanna Molloy. Now it’s a movie directed by Peter Farrelly — who won the Oscar for “Green Book.” Zac Efron, looking to do more mature films, plays Chickie with all he’s got, and he delivers the goods, not just the beer.
The movie is in theaters now and headed to Apple TV Plus shortly. By all means, go see it in a theater. It’s an actual fun night out at the movies. On Rotten Tomatoes, “Beer Run” has a 90 Audience Score. Critics didn’t like it much, but they refused to take it seriously or enjoy it. They also made a mistake to question its veracity. Molloy is a top notch reporter, did incredibly homework interviewing Chickie and all his friends, a gang that is still alive, have great memories, and are incredibly endearing.
When Chickie returned from Vietnam unscathed he’d seen a lot. He became anti-war and wound up going to the prestigious JFK School of Government at Harvard. No kidding. But he’s still a neighborhood guy, just more enlightened.
The only part of “Beer Run” made up for the movie is a war photographer played by Russell Crowe. For drama’s sake, Chickie needed a guide and a friend he could rely on. The Crowe character is the only invention, and he doesn’t change the truth of the story.
Farrelly gets a bad rap from the snobs in moviedom because he made so many crazy comedies before “Green Book.” I totally agree with that movie getting its Oscar. It was full of heart. So is “Beer Run.” Efron is incredibly ingratiating. All the guys who play the Vietnam soldiers he found are authentic and genuine. Efron’s interaction with the whole cast works, down to the Brooklyn accents.
And the movie has a happy ending. Last week I insisted on going to a screening with Chickie and his real life pals because I liked them so much in the movie. They did not disappoint. Once you’ve seen the movie, you’ll want go on a beer run with them, too!