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Blu-ray Review: The Beach Bum

July 3, 2019

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Following up Spring Breakers, an unlikely hit that remains the biggest and most accessible film of his scrappy career, eccentric indie filmmaker Harmony Korine has returned with The Beach Bum, a stoner comedy that stars Matthew McConaughey as a strung out poet named Moondog.

This description tells you pretty much all you need to know about The Beach Bum, which plays mostly as a hangout film that has its own weird sort of charm to it. At the start of the film, Moondog is living his best life in the Florida Keys. His existence is based around the excesses of drugs, booze and debauchery, and he spends his days hanging out on boats with half-naked women.

The film’s loose story begins when Moondog returns to Miami for his daughter’s (Stefania LaVie Owen) wedding, where he reunites with his wife Minnie (Isla Fisher), who is having a not so secret love affair with his friend and fellow stoner Lingerie (Snoop Dogg), a fact that doesn’t really faze him at all. It’s all about free loving, man. There is a dramatic event that happens at the end of the first act, which forces Moondog to focus on finally finishing his next book of poetry, or else he risks losing his massive fortune.

It’s not really an exaggeration to say that this is the role McConaughey was born to play, with the actor channeling the “just keep livin’” vibes of his iconic Dazed and Confused character after several more bong rips. The actor fully inhabits the character of Moondog, and it’s a role that amplifies the most elements of what people think of when they think of McConaughey. Korine brings a super chill and laid back energy to the film, different from the more intense feel of Spring Breakers, and Benoît Debie’s sun-kissed cinematography envelops us in the hazy Florida heat.

The film mainly unfolds through a series of sketch-like encounters between Moondog and other equally eccentric characters, and the cast includes amusing appearances from Jonah Hill as Moondog’s agent; Zac Efron as a delinquent Jesus Freak who believes that Christ died for our sins so therefore he can get away with anything; and Martin Lawrence as a coked up grifter named Captain Wack who takes paying tourists out on his boat to see the “dolphins” aka sharks. Jimmy Buffett also has a small supporting role as himself, and his presence in the film just makes sense, in the same way that McConaughey playing a stoner named Moondog makes sense.

It’s not perfect, and feels unfocused at times, but The Beach Bum also has all the earmarks of a future cult classic. The film has a sort of episodic, sketch comedy feel to it that can get a bit repetitive, but this mostly fits with the hazy, shaggy dog nature of the story. No matter what happens, Moondog just keeps getting by and finding success in his career, often by complete accident. He is “falling upwards” in the most literal sense. Built around a solid performance by McConaughey, who embodies the role perfectly, The Beach Bum works as a simple but often amusing ode to letting loose and enjoying life.

The Blu-ray also includes close to an hour of cast and crew interviews.

The Beach Bum is a VVS Films release. It’s 95 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: July 2nd, 2019

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