(US/UK/Switzerland/France - 2019)
Written and directed by Harmony Korine. Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Martin Lawrence, Zac Efron, Stefania LaVie Owen, Jimmy Buffett, Jonah Hill, Donovan St. V. Williams, Clinton Archambault, Joshua Ritter, Chela Arias, Bertie Higgins. (R, 95 mins)
The stoner comedy THE BEACH BUM is a pretty blatant attempt by Matthew McConaughey to give himself his own BIG LEBOWSKI. Like Jeff Bridges, he's practically iconic just by being "Matthew McConaughey," right down to his signature "alright, alright, alright," which will likely be carved into his tombstone. McConaughey tried one of these projects before with 2008's barely-released and largely-forgotten SURFER, DUDE, an ill-advised, self-produced vanity project that came a few years before the vaunted "McConnaissance" that culminated in his Oscar for DALLAS BUYERS CLUB. With THE BEACH BUM, McConaughey puts himself in the hands of writer/director Harmony Korine, who made an enfant terrible splash a generation ago as the 22-year-old wunderkind screenwriter of Larry Clark's controversial 1995 provocation KIDS. Korine went on to direct his own films of varying degrees of unwatchability, like 1997's GUMMO and 1999's JULIEN DONKEY-BOY. He remained on the fringes of the indie scene over the next decade, with 2008's MISTER LONELY getting some acclaim before 2009's TRASH HUMPERS had him back in GUMMO mode. With 2013's instant cult classic SPRING BREAKERS, with perhaps the ultimate James Franco performance, Korine demonstrated an unexpected maturity in his ability to make something relatively multiplex-accessible. THE BEACH BUM again finds Korine in the vicinity of mainstream, albeit with some expected indie and arthouse flourishes, mainly in the form of the same kind of striking cinematography that Benoit Debie provided for SPRING BREAKERS. There's just something hauntingly beautiful about a shot of McConaughey's stoned character dancing in a torrential downpour lit with some SUSPIRIA-esque purple filters with accompaniment by Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown."
DAZED AND CONFUSED, Cheech & Chong, and '80s slob comedy propelled by a ton of yacht rock needle drops. In a role he was born to play, McConaughey is Moondog, an affable stoner and Key West folk hero who spends his days smoking weed, drinking PBR, doing lines, getting laid, cruising on his boat christened Well Hung, and hanging with celebrity bros like Jimmy Buffett and Bertie Higgins, even joining the latter onstage at a beachfront bar for a rendition of his 1982 hit "Key Largo." Ostensibly a once-revered poet (think Charles Bukowski crossed with Captain Ron), though his watching an old VHS tape of a nearly vacant reading says otherwise, Moondog gets by on the family wealth passed down to his wife Minnie (Isla Fisher), with whom he's in an open marriage. She's in Miami, hooked up with Moondog's soul-singing best friend Lingerie (Snoop Dogg), and Moondog has just arrived for the wedding of the daughter Heather (Stefania LaVie Owen) to the square Frank (Joshua Ritter), referred to by everyone as "Limpdick." Moondog and Minnie go bar-hopping after the wedding, and a drunk and stoned Minnie crosses left of center and is killed in a head-on collision. Moondog survives and is told by her lawyer (Clinton Archambault) that half of the $100 million inheritance goes to Heather, while his half is held in escrow until he publishes his next long-delayed book of poetry, Minnie's final inspiration to get him off his ass and do something. Instead, he rounds up a bunch of homeless guys and destroys one of his houses, which leads to his arrest and a choice: jail or rehab. Moondog opts for rehab, which lasts almost an entire day before he busts out with Flicker (Zac Efron), a JNCO-wearing, panini-bearded, paint-huffing pyromaniac who once fronted a Creed cover band.
The Dude. It could've used more Snoop and Efron, and even at 95 minutes, it starts to wear a little thin by the end, but truthfully, I laughed quite a bit, which is more than I can say for a lot of present-day comedies. And while it's not exactly the best Matthew McConaughey performance, it's certainly the most Matthew McConaughey performance.