This film is definitely not for a mainstream audience, which may be why it’s doing so poorly at the box office. The Beach Bum really is like an acid trip, and while that means that parts of it are undeniably fun (largely due to the performances) it also means that parts of it are just bonkers. To be honest, the only reason parts of it are enjoyable is due to McConaughey’s perfect performance as the ultimate die hard hippie/bum. I’m a fan of his and he almost always gives a great performance, and this is the type of role he was born to play, so it works well. But the big question is…. is that enough for the price of admission?
Matthew McConaughey’s performance is truly great, he completely embodies the not a care in the world hippie dippie attitude. The look, the behavior, everything is perfect there. Isla Fisher’s performance is also great. She gives her character a very bubbly amusing persona and it works. The chemistry between their two characters works, too. No matter how odd it may seem, you can’t deny their obvious onscreen chemistry. Even though I was fairly skeptical of Snoop Dog being in this film, I really enjoyed his portrayal of Ray. This is honestly the perfect type of film for him to be in. There’s some comedic material that lands well, not all of it does, but I did laugh at a handful of well done jokes. There’s a very strong blunt fashion in the way they deliver the dialogue, and it works most of the time.
If only everything else about this film was as good as Matthew’s stellar performance. The biggest negative I took away from The Beach Bum was unfortunately Zac Efron. I usually like him ok but there were two issues with him. One is that his character was pretty much pointless to the story. Two is that he’s way too over the top and completely unlikable. Up until that point all the characters were pretty likable. Yes reckless, but still likable. Efron’s character is just such a morally corrupt jackass though that you’re like ok when can we ditch this guy?? Martin Lawrence is pretty pointless as well and the one thing that happens with his character that’s supposed to be funny isn’t funny at all. The comedy that works in this film is verbal, the slapstick stuff is pretty grotesque and cruel. They go for dark humor but it just comes across as jarring and off-putting. There’s also a feeling of pointlessness in certain parts. Certain scenes needed to be cut short because they just keep going on with this hippie nonsense and it eventually gets old.
I felt very split about this film as I left the theater. It has a certain kind of likability to it because of the main characters. The care free, let the good times roll feel that’s draped over the whole thing is enjoyable in parts. But then certain scenes left a bad taste in my mouth, mainly Efron and Lawrence’s segments. The ending didn’t grab me either. The ending starts out pretty good and you think it’s going to wrap up on that positive note, but then Matthew’s character Moondog does something so stupid that it kind of throws things off. I mean to be fair he does lots of stupid things throughout the film, but this one was like taking a great personal victory and just pouring it all down the drain. It seemed reckless for the sake of being reckless.
I don’t recommend seeing The Beach Bum in theaters, but I do think it’s worth a watch maybe on rental or when it comes on a movie channel. It for sure has it’s flaws, but there’s also an undeniable likability as well.
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