THE GREATEST BEER RUN EVER – Review by Susan Granger

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While America’s involvement in the Vietnam War remains controversial, films like The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now and Ken Burns’ documentary, have reflected on the conflict’s psychological aspects. So The Greatest Beer Run Ever is a refreshingly entertaining comedic drama, focusing on a crowd-pleasing, behind-the-scenes glimpse of a globe-spanning beer run.

After a stint in the Merchant Marine, John ”Chickie” Donahue (Zac Efron) retreated to his family’s home in the close-knit , Irish-American community of Inwood in northern Manhattan, where he spent most of his time drinking and carousing at a local pub.

One night in 1967, the patriotic bartender, known as The Colonel (Bill Murray), said, “Somebody ought to go over to ‘Nam, track down our boys from the neighborhood, and bring them a beer.” Reckless Chickie immediately volunteered to make the journey, much to the chagrin of his sister (Ruby Ashbourne Serkis) who marched with anti-war protesters.

Using his seaman’s credentials and toting a duffle bag full of Pabst Blue Ribbon brew, he optimistically hopped on a cargo ship bound for Vietnam. After two months at sea, he self-confidently wangled a three-day pass to find his buddies. Because an idiotic officer (wide-eyed Matt Cook) mistook him for an undercover CIA agent, Chickie was able to get military transport – which landed him in the war zone.

“What the hell are you doing here?” blurted one of his buddies. “You don’t have to be here – and you’re here!” Shortly afterwards, as shell-shocked Chickie realized the State Dept. had lied about winning the war, his naïve attitude changed.

But when his ship left port earlier than expected, Chickie was stranded. Hoping for help, he turned to the U.S. Embassy just as the Viet Cong attacked Saigon, launching the Tet Offensive. That’s when a cynical, yet empathetic war correspondent (Russell Crowe) tossed Chickie a camera and told him to pretend he was Press.

Based on The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A Memoir of Friendship, Loyalty, and War by John “Chick” Donahue and J.T. Molloy, it’s adapted with rollicking respect by Brian Currie, Pete Jones and director Peter Farrelly (The Green Book), who delicately navigate the moral and political turmoil.

One particularly memorable interlude has Chickie befriending a Saigon traffic cop (Kevin K. Tran), who hopes someday to visit Oklahoma because he enjoyed the musical. And credit scenes show the real Chickie and his four friends – now old men – still celebrating his beer run.

Full disclosure: My son, Don Granger, is one of the film’s producers.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, The Greatest Beer Run is a charming, satisfying 7, opening in select theaters on Sept. 23rd and streaming on Apple TV+ starting September 30th.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.