By Lynn Venhaus
Dumbfounded, I can’t recall a recent movie that is as tone-deaf as “The Greatest Beer Run Ever.”

In 1967, John “Chickie” Donohue decides to track down his friends fighting in Vietnam and honor them with a Pabst Blue Ribbon for their service. When the pro-war Merchant Marine is confronted with the horrors of the conflict, he sees that the ‘real’ chaos is different than the ‘public relations’ portrait the powers-at-be are giving to the American people.

Director Peter Farrelly has followed up his Oscar-winning crowd-pleaser “Green Book” with another true story, although this one is harder to make palatable. Somehow, pairing a harrowing war drama with comedic elements doesn’t work, getting more head-scratching as it unfolds in 2 hours, 6 minutes.

This isn’t “M*A*S*H,” not even close. It is also a war depiction that we have seen multiple times, and with a much better story, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a dunderheaded protagonist.

Merchant Marine and world-class slacker John “Chickie” Donohue lives in Inwood, a working-class enclave in northern Manhattan. Without thinking, he agrees to a scheme suggested by bar owner “The Colonel,” a World War II veteran played by Bill Murray.

The bar crowd at Doc Fiddler’s Tavern is pro-war, this being early in the escalation, and everyone’s dad or grandad fought in World War II, aka “The Good War.”

So, when The Colonel says he’d like to send the guys serving in ‘Nam a beer to thank them for their service, Chickie volunteers: “I could do that.”

Well, nobody thinks he can, so he doubles-down. Zac Efron’s grown on me as an actor, but he can’t make such an idiot, with far too much hubris, that likeable. He thinks he will just hitch-hike through enemy territory handing out beers on the front lines.

And when did New York accents sound like Boston Southees?

His duffle bag of beer seems to have an unlimited supply of warm, maybe stale, Pabst Blue Ribbon. As Russell Crowe, playing a war correspondent for Look magazine says: “They have beer here,” Chickie retorts “but not American beer!”

(My Uncle Eddie, a career Air Force officer, was at Tuy Hoa Air Base for a year in 1968, and I know they had beer. He wrote letters home talking about the guys unwinding.)

The soldiers from back home don’t exactly know what to think about this gesture. Some are glad to see him, some think its foolhardy to risk life and limb this way.

Because people think no one would be a tourist in a war zone, guys believe he is a CIA operative, so he gets around using military and media guides to help him.

Along the way, he sees intense action. The tail-end of his visit actually coincides with the Tet Offensive. (Another aside – I had a cousin in the Marines who was killed right before Christmas in 1967. I’m sure he would not have appreciated some lunkhead roaming around where he shouldn’t have been. This movie is rather offensive, I would think, to those who served honorably.)

Chicken comes home a changed man because he learns “war is hell.” He’s seen the guys who love the smell of napalm in the morning. Once a hawk, he starts to understand the anti-war sentiment 

Russell Crowe, Zac Efron

So, that’s the takeaway. He has an epiphany that LBJ, General Westmoreland and others in the government are lying about how well the war is going, which the media keeps pointing out to Chickie over bars in Saigon.

Does he deserve a round of applause, a medal? He not only put himself in harm’s way but endangered his buddies too.

He does tell the barflies that the chaos is not like the previous world war, and they should be more skeptical of what the U.S. brass is telling citizens.

At the end, he doesn’t become a peacenik like his sister Christine (Ruby Ashbourne Serkis), who is seen chanting “Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” earlier, but they come to an understanding.

Chickie’s harsh lesson is a good thing, and he’s endured the loss of several friends, which does tug at your heart strings — especially the flashbacks in which Will Hockmann plays Tommy, questioning if he did the right thing by signing up. He’s one missing in action early on, and it’s sad. 

The other soldiers – just kids – making an impression are Jack Picking as Rick Duggan and Archie Renaux as Tom Collins.

Crowe lends gravitas as the jaded journalist, but he’s been given the “important” task of being the voice of reason – and he’s not in the film that much (neither is Murray).

Farrelly, in an attempt to have lightning strike twice, debuted this at the Toronto International Film Festival, hoping to be in contention for the Audience Award, just like “Green Book” did. Well, it didn’t win – Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical film “The Fablemans” did. 

The only awards I think this film might be considered for would be The Razzies, which honors the “worst.”

Farrelly’s used to success with low-brow humor, such as “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary,” but in recent years, he’s moved into more ‘prestige’ picks that seem pretentious.

He stages some harrowing action scenes and shows how a jungle climate threw wrenches into things, as in long slithering insects. 

Cinematographer Sean Porter’s work captures the madness that was an Asian country where you couldn’t tell the enemy from the supporters, and the dangers therein.

Just because this is based on a true story doesn’t mean it’s a sympathetic one to tell. There are so many WTH moments that it becomes painful to slog through. For instance, Chickie is riding in a helicopter. Another man is interrogating a Viet Cong operative. He tosses him out the chopper while The Association’s song “Cherish” plays.

Oh, the irony.

Farrelly co-wrote the script with Brian Hayes Currie and Pete Jones, based on the book by Chickie and J.T. Molloy. Did they not see that Chickie should have ‘read the room’ — or themselves?

The soundtrack is chock-full of groovin’ 60s hits, which is a plus when it’s used in context. But not suitable for a montage of dead soldiers in flag-draped coffins. Not sure it all fits or syncs well to the story, but sometimes it’s on the nose, punctuating a bizarre tale.

This buddy movie is a dud, and can’t quite blend the somber with the silly in an effective way.

“The Greatest Beer Run Ever” is a 2022 war drama-comedy directed by Peter Farrelly and starring Zac Efron, Russell Crowe, Bill Murray, Jack Picking and Will Hockmann. Rated R for language and some war violence. It is in theaters Sept. 30 and streaming on Apple TV+. Lynn’s Grade: C-

By Lynn Venhaus
The beguiling “Thor: Love and Thunder” is a sweet love story wrapped in a darker cosmic adventure and draped in Norse god mythology.

This flashy blend of heroics, heart and humor is sometimes too goofy to be taken seriously, but overall is an inspired take from director Taika Waititi, and that is reason enough to spring extra for the IMAX viewing.

But first and foremost, the enormously appealing Chris Hemsworth is back as the crown prince of Asgard being playful, very physical – and emotional. In the Summer of the Chris’, he might be having the best one (His comrades Chris Evans and Chris Pratt, although, are not being left in the dust).

Hemsworth has now played Thor in four stand-alone installments and in four Avengers films, and has made the role his signature. When we last saw the superhero in “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019, he was having an existential crisis, and Hemworth’s comedic skills were used well.

In this chapter, Thor, interrupted in his retirement, enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) to combat the galactic killer Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who intends to make the gods extinct. To Thor’s surprise, Jane wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor, and they must join forces to stop Gorr’s vengeance and save the multi-universe.

Picking up where “Avengers: Endgame” left off three years ago, Thor gets back in shape, going from “Dad bod to god bod” — and is shown meddling in the Guardians of the Galaxy’s quests, and hanging out in Asgard as this retired guy content to let the world pass him by. Naturally, duty calls, and so does his ex, astrophysicist Dr. Jane Foster, now battling cancer and wielding the enchanted hammer.

Hemsworth and Natalie Portman have a delightful chemistry together, and their scenes of tussling and reconnecting are sincere and sentimental. They make you believe in them – and care.

And as The Mighty Thor, Portman shows off her physicality. She’s able to meet the demands of the role with ebullience and grace.

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) as Mighty Thor

Thor, the god of thunder, was turned into comic book gold by writer Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber and artist Jack Kirby in 1962, making his debut in Marvel’s “The Silver Age of Comic Books,” and #82 “Journey into Mystery.”

Now, 60 years later, the brawny do-gooder is an indispensable part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe treatments. The Kenneth Branagh-directed one started his story in 2011, followed by “The Dark World” sequel in 2013, then Waititi took over in “Thor: Ragnarok” in 2017 and now “Love and Thunder.”

Hemsworth plays up Thor’s strong, beefy, and boastful qualities, and always seems to let the audience in on the joke.

Multi-hyphenate Waititi, who won an Oscar for best original screenplay for “JoJo Rabbit” in 2020, is known as a writer for his cheeky and brazen humor, and injects a liveliness into his second Thor film, for which he wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson.

As a director, the New Zealander takes on quirky projects – see “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” for a surprisingly fun adventure – and as an actor, he’s stood out in a wide range of wacky characters. He might be best known for creating “What We Do in the Shadows,” now a wildly successful television series adaptation.

Waititi moves through a jumble of genres with ease. This installment of “Thor” actually straddles darkness and light rather deftly, but it is certainly a jolt to plunge into the creepy ink-black world of Gorr’s cruelty as he terrorizes kidnapped children.

So, while “Love and Thunder” is geared to be a family film, it has elements of horror, and can scare the young ones. They really push that PG-13 rating.

A gaunt and nearly unrecognizable Christian Bale is quite good as the sinister villain, bringing an interesting edge to the role. It’s a welcome return, for the Oscar-winning actor had planned not to do any more superhero movies after he finished playing the Caped Crusader in “The Dark Knight Rises” in 2012, relented, and he makes his mark giving Gorr more dimension as a grief-stricken father.

The quality of the performances, with both Bale, Portman and even Russell Crowe being silly as Zeus, is indicative of their willingness to take risks and not rest on their golden Academy Awards statuettes.

The cast is up to the challenges, both in harrowing danger and in the “Team Thor” camaraderie – especially with Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie presiding over Asgard as the ruler, and Waititi voicing the giant hunk of stones Korg.

The zippy action-packed visual effects extravaganza is set to a very loud pulse-pounding classic rock score. After two hours and five minutes, it intriguingly leaves us wanting more with two surprising scenes during the end credits.

“Love and Thunder” whets our appetites for the future projects – what a fun reveal some recognizable people are – but satisfies as a rip-roaring, energetic, and entertaining stand-alone with a compelling story and fine performances.

But — those screaming goats are a bit much.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” is a 2022 action, adventure, fantasy film directed by Taika Waititi and stars Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson and Russell Crowe. It is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, some suggestive material, and partial nudity, and runs 2 hours, 5 minutes. Opens in theaters on July 8. Lynn’s Grade: B+