When filmmaker Peter Farrelly last attended the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018, his film with a feel-good message Green Book it would take home the festival’s People’s Choice Award and go on to win three Oscars, including Best Picture.
It is unlikely that lightning strikes twice with its last effort, The biggest beer race in historythat he sees fit to approach America’s involvement in the Vietnam War in the same way his previous film dealt with race relations.
The biggest beer race in history
The bottom line
It deflates terribly fast.
Inspired by the unlikely but true story of a working-class New York merchant seaman who boarded a ship bound for Saigon in 1967 with the sole intention of bringing beer to his deployed friends to lift their spirits, the new project, coming to Apple TV + at the end of this month, it is true that it has some potential to please the audience. But while both the title and the setting, taken from the book of the same name by John Donohue and JT Molloy, might suggest something more along the lines of the brilliantly satirical movies he used to make with his brother, Bobby, Farrelly’s higher style. the impulses work against the material. The result is a meandering, disjointed production that struggles to find a satisfying tone.
Played by Zac Efron (sporting a ’70s porn star mustache), John “Chickie” Donahue is a true slacker of his day. He still lives at home with his parents and pacifist sister (Ruby Ashbourne Serkis), sleeping late and staying up later beating them up at Doc Fiddler’s, the local watering hole overseen by “The Colonel” (a serious Bill Murray), who maintains that graphic images of the Vietnam War broadcast on network television are bad for American morale.
Chickie, wanting to do her bit for her friends’ morale, boards a cargo ship with no other plan than to distribute the now-toasty cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon from her seemingly bottomless duffel bag, then simply turn around. and return home. He soon discovers that it is much more difficult to get out of a war than to get into one, especially when his arrival coincides with the start of the Tet Offensive.
Eager to find a way back to her ship, Chickie initially poses as a CIA agent to help facilitate her departure, only to witness a darker side to the conflict she was never meant to see. As he reminds her of the gruff but philosophical Arthur (Russell Crowe), a war correspondent for Look at Magazine, there are many wars in Vietnam, but the most important one is public relations.
Although Crowe’s measured performance momentarily manages to deflate the air of self-sufficiency that envelops the film, Farrelly and co-writers Brian Currie and Pete Jones continue to press the Vietnam talking points as if there were a test afterward, and the didacticism continues to drag. whatever energy the movie tries to muster.
While Efron has proven to be an affable actor in the past, his self-centered character requires someone with greater dramatic clout or sharper comedic chops if the audience is to want to continue to support him on his path to enlightenment. At the end of this unnecessarily long excursion, Chickie’s experience might have opened her eyes to some inconvenient truths, but hapless, heavy-lidded viewers might not be so lucky.
Venue: Toronto International Film Festival (Gala Presentations)
Distributor: Apple TV+
Cast: Zac Efron, Russell Crowe, Bill Murray, Jake Picking, Kyle Allen, Archie Renaux
Director: Peter Farrelly
Writers: Peter Farrelly, Brian Currie, Pete Jones
Producers: David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Andrew Muscato, Jake Myers
Director of photography: Sean Porter
Production Design: Tim Galvin
Costume designer: Bao Tranchi
Publisher: Patrick J. Don Vito
Music: David Palmer
Sales: Apple TV+
Rated R, 2 hours 6 minutes