THE GREATEST BEER RUN EVER*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
Inwood, NYC, 1967 – Former Marine John “Chickie” Donohue (Zac Efron) is at a bar with his best friends. The bar is operated by a man referred to as “The Colonel” (Bill Murray), who notes that Chickie is behind on his tab. Chickie is shown to be a bit of a slacker, living with his parents (Paul Adelstein and Shirleyann Kaladjian), his grandmother (Anabel Graetz) and sister Christine (Ruby Ashbourne Serkis).
Christine comes crying into the kitchen one morning to inform them that an old friend, Johnny, was killed in action while serving in the Vietnam War. Christine is opposed to the war while Chickie and their father (who also formerly served) have strong support for the troops. Chickie attends Johnny’s funeral with his friends, where he learns that another close friend, Tommy Minogue (Will Hochman), has been reported as missing in action. Chickie steps outside the funeral home and reminisces over spending time with Tommy, the two of them chasing after a cab.
After the funeral, Chickie and his friend Red (Joe Adler) walk by the park where they find a group of people, including Christine, protesting the war and President Lyndon B Johnson’s draft. Chickie and Red argue with Christine and her friends, as the two see their friends that are serving overseas as heroes, while the others think they are being forced to fight and die against their will. The guys get into a physical altercation with some of the crowd members, and Red gets knocked out so Chickie has to carry him away.
Chickie and Red go back to the bar with the rest of their friends and the Colonel. They talk about wanting to find a way to lift the spirits of their friends who are serving, to give them a feeling of enjoying a beer the way they currently are. This gives Chickie an idea to go to Vietnam himself and deliver his friends some beers. However, Chickie later appears to backtrack on this, which only gives his friends more reason to view him as someone who talks about doing something but never actually accomplishing his goals, like finishing high school, so nobody actually expects him to go to Vietnam.
The Donohues are visited by Tommy’s mother (Kristin Carey), who heard about Chickie’s plan to go to Vietnam, and she requests that he give Tommy his dog tags when he finds him. Realizing that this means people are expecting something of him, he decides to go along with the trip. He gets a big duffel bag from the Colonel and fills it with beer cans. Christine attempts to talk Chickie out of it, knowing he is heading into dangerous territory, but he hops in a cab and heads out anyway.
Chickie takes a boat to Vietnam. His first stop is to find his friend Tommy Collins (Archie Renaux). Chickie finds some of Collins’ fellow soldiers and convinces them to let him through by offering them beers as well. He finds Collins, who is ecstatic to see him. Chickie spends the night at their camp, drinking beers and listening to music until the men’s superior officer comes in and chastises Chickie for being there, thinking he must be a CIA agent. With help from Collins’ buddies, Chickie maps out his plan for reaching the other guys. While Collins thinks his plan is crazy, Chickie insists that he has to see it through.
Continuing on his journey, Chickie stops at the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon, where he finds other Americans and British citizens sitting at the bar, including a war photographer named Arthur Coates (Russell Crowe). While Chickie continues to express his support for the war, the others don’t share the same sentiments. When he says he needs to get to LZ Jane, the bartender tells him that only the military is able to get across certain parts of the country. Chickie then finds a military caravan and hitches a ride.
Chickie arrives at a base where he convinces the men there that he is a CIA agent and requires special transport. He is flown to LZ Jane, where he is looking for his buddy Rick Duggan (Jake Picking). Duggan’s superior officers contact him and order him to meet them where Chickie is, forcing Duggan to run in plain sight of the enemy, who fire at him as he runs. He makes it to the others, but when Chickie pops up to surprise him, Duggan reacts angrily at Chickie nearly getting him killed all for some beer and also chastises himself for being dumb enough to enter a warzone for this task.
Chickie joins Duggan and his squad as they go back into the battlefield and fire upon the Viet Cong. When night falls, Chickie passes beers around to Duggan and the other men while they are in the trenches. Duggan also tells Chickie that one of the friends he was going to visit, Reynolds, is already dead.
In the morning, Chickie joins Duggan and his squad for a photograph, which he is given. The two friends part ways since Duggan and the other need to keep advancing ahead of the enemy. Chickie is put on a chopper with two CIA agents and a prisoner. The men interrogate the man for information while threatening to throw him out if he doesn’t tell them what they want to know, which terrifies Chickie. Even after the prisoner divulges his information, the agents throw him out of the chopper.
Upon landing, the agents grow suspicious of Chickie. He goes into the base to request a ride to Saigon so he can ride a boat back home and is told by one of the officers that he may leave his post to escort Chickie. When Chickie looks outside, he sees the officer driving a prison caravan, and he realizes the agents are after him. Chickie makes a run for it into the woods, where the others chase him. He hides until they give up looking for him and proceed forward. Chickie walks alone and comes across a child playing in the streets, who is terrified upon seeing another white man. While walking, Chickie sees a busted jeep and reminisces about Tommy once more, thinking about how he convinced Tommy to enlist in the draft even though he was nervous about it.
As night falls, Chickie comes across a stampede of elephants running from napalm. He is found by another old friend, Kevin “Looney” McLoone (Will Ropp). Despite their orders to move in the opposite direction of where Chickie is headed, McLoone and his men give Chickie a ride going back. McLoone puts Chickie on a chopper, and Chickie hands him his beer.
Chickie arrives in Saigon to try and make it to the U.S. Embassy. He is guided by a local named Hieu (Kevin K. Tran), whom he had met the first time he was around there. After giving Chickie directions, he gives Hieu his address to come visit him in New York. Chickie shows up at the Embassy and meets a woman who eventually helps get him a spot on a plane from Manila the next day.
Chickie returns to the Caravelle Hotel, where he finds Coates and the other journalists from earlier still drinking in the same spot. He shows them the photo of himself at LZ Jane to prove he really went along with his mission. Coates treats Chickie to drinks and discusses his feelings on the ongoing situation and their work documenting the war. An explosion then rings out as it turns out the Viet Cong are attacking. Chickie and Coates run out together and get into the streets where chaos is going on, and people are left dead in the streets, including Hieu. While hiding, Chickie sees an American tank firing in the streets. Chickie and Coates hide for a while before being allowed to proceed by saying they are with the press.
By morning, Chickie and Coates continue to move. Coates photographs the aftermath of the bloodshed, with many civilians and soldiers lying dead. The images cause Chickie to rethink his position on the entire war. The two drive to an army depot where Chickie looks for one last friend, Bobby Pappas (Kyle Allen). He was wounded, but he is happy to see Chickie. Pappas helps Chickie get in touch with someone to fly him home, but he confirms to Chickie that Tommy is dead. Chickie gives Pappas his beer and parts ways with him, as well as Coates. Chickie is flown home alongside the caskets of fallen soldiers.
Chickie returns home and is welcomed warmly by his friends and the Colonel, but he tells them that his view on the war has changed. Before drinking with them, he says he has to do one last thing. He goes to visit Mrs. Minogue to give her Tommy’s tags back. While she is thankful that he did attempt to find Tommy, Chickie tearfully tells her that it’s his fault that he went out there and that he should have let him be afraid to enlist, or else he would still be there. Mrs. Minogue doesn’t hold it against Chickie and hugs him.
Chickie goes by the park, where he sits among the tributes for soldiers. He is found by Christine, who is glad to see him. She sits by his side, and Chickie gives her his last beer.
The ending text states that Tommy Collins, Rick Duggan, Kevin McLoone, and Bobby Pappas all made it home from the war safely and have since (mostly) quit drinking. Chickie Donohue finished high school and graduated from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He went to work as a tunnel builder and became the legislative and political director. Two final photos show the real Chickie at LZ Jane, along with him, Collins, Duggan, McLoone, and Pappas as they appear today.
The film is based on the true story of John "Chickie" Donohue, a former Marine who traveled to Vietnam during the war to bring his enlisted friends beers to lift their spirits. Although he mostly succeeds, the images of war and carnage change his view on the war, as he was initially a firm supporter for the troops, but he sees that there is nothing but bloodshed coming from both sides.
Chickie finds his friends Tommy Collins, Rick Duggan, Kevin McLoone, and Bobby Pappas and gives them their beers. One of his friends, Tommy Minogue, went missing and was later confirmed dead. He returns home and gives his last beer to his sister Christine.
The real life Chickie went on to finish school and become a legislative and political director for New York City tunnel builders. His friends all returned home safely after the war.