Zac Efron has come a long way since his acting debut in High School Musical. The American actor, now 34, has seemingly gone from strength to strength, taking on roles that are evidently testing his chops as an artist. Now, Efron stars as the real-life John “Chickie” Donohue in Apple TV+ ‘The Greatest Beer Run Ever’, a biographical action-comedy co-written and directed by Peter Farrelly (Green Book; Dumb & Dumber) that’s inspired by (crazy) true events, and it’s perhaps one of his best roles to date.
It’s 1967, and Efron’s plaid shirt-wearing, moustache-going Chickie Donohue is a Marine Corps veteran and merchant seaman who finds himself spending most of his days either sleeping late or sinking beer at the local watering hole, amid a time where most of his friends are out fighting in the Vietnam war. Displeased with how his life is panning out – and wanting to lift the spirits of his friends fighting in the war – Chickie drums up a fanciful idea to board a ship bound for Saigon to deliver his deployed buddies a much-needed beer.
Chickie soon finds himself on an incredibly dangerous adventure in Vietnam, with his arrival coinciding with the onset of the Tet Offensive. What he soon discovers is that it’s a lot harder to get out of a war than it is to get into one…
“Someone sent me a short 12-min documentary that was on YouTube about Chickie Donohue bringing beer to his friends in Vietnam during the war,” explains director Peter Farrelly.
“I thought it was the silliest thing I had ever heard. But as it went on, I realised he actually ended up being there during the Tet Offensive and I thought this is too crazy, I have to tell his story!”
“It’s a very magical and profound story,” adds Zac Efron. “It [Chickie’s journey] ended up being one of the coolest gestures you could make of love and compassion.’
Zac Efron speaks about the script for ‘The Greatest Beer Run Ever’ at #TIFF22 .
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) September 13, 2022
At the helm of the film’s production is Peter Farrelly, whose last picture ‘Green Book‘ took home the Oscar for ‘Best Picture’ in 2019, among a plethora of other awards, Naturally, the expectation for Farrelly’s high-flying beer crusade to succeed was high, but the general consensus among film critics has been that The Greatest Beer Run Ever is indeed not ‘the greatest film ever’.
Personally, I really enjoyed the film. While a little disjointed and at times stupidly unrealistic (how Chickie manages to wander around Vietnam during the height of the war as a mere civilian is baffling, let alone the seemingly infinite supply of beer he manages from one duffle bag), the performance given by Efron was honestly one of his best, whilst the supporting roles from veterans like Russell Crowe and Bill Murray also made for great viewing.
“This is a very different Zac Efron than people have ever seen,” says Farrelly. “This is a richer Zac. This is a deeper thing. This, to me, is young John Travolta in ‘Saturday Night Fever.’ In that film, Travolta played a flawed character, but he knew he wanted to be better. That’s what Zac does here, he creates a guy who is flawed, but wants to improve.”
“There are so many things I love about Chickie, as a human being and as a character. He is motivated out of this pure sense of love for his friends and he doesn’t have all the answers but he’s brave enough to throw himself out there and follow through with a pretty crazy idea,” adds Efron.
“I’d like to think that on my best day, and maybe if I was a bit younger, I would make a choice [sic] like Chickie’s.”
But where the film may have lacked in overall direction and believability, it made up for it in heart, charm and humour. It truly is a wild story to believe, but one that indeed came true.
“Chickie was a very fun character to play. I got to learn about Vietnam and put myself through very similar scenarios that he was in, and it was really an eye-opening experience,” says Efron.
“This was a unique perspective because for the whole time, the audience really is seeing it through the eyes of a civilian, and no one has really ever done a Vietnam story like that before.”
‘The Greatest Beer Run Ever’ will stream from Apple TV+ on September 30.