Whatever else might be said about Harmony Korine’s filmography, he’s almost certainly the only director who could not only put Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Buffett in the same film, but also have them collaborate on a song for said film. Such is the anarchic and wildly fun energy of The Beach Bum, a silly and shallow but enormously entertaining celebration of goofing around and the best use of Matthew McConaughey since season 1 of True Detective. Following a couple of weeks in the hazy life of bohemian Florida Keys poet Moondog (McConaughey), what it lacks in dramatic tension, it more than makes up for in fun.
Moondog is a genuine free spirit, with all the good, bad, and ugly that that lifestyle entails, and his unerring faith that things will simply work out for him as he sashays through Florida makes him both a joy to hang out with and an annoying prick. McConaughey plays both these notes, and everything in between, in raucous fashion, clearly revelling in playing a character with no artifice at all, simply a desire to consume as much of the high life while doing as little work as possible to attain it. The Beach Bum is very funny, wringing every laugh possible out of McConaughey’s performance and its colourful supporting cast.
Snoop Dogg and Isla Fisher have slightly more dramatic roles as the key figures of stability in Moondog’s life, but both also get a lot of comedy to play with, while everyone else is just there to have fun. Jonah Hill gets go very broad with an absurd accent as Moondog’s agent, Martin Lawrence is hilarious, and Zac Efron is unforgettable as a hard-partying rich kid with an instantly iconic douchebag look. Korine treats this ensemble with fondness where other filmmakers might find only grotesquery, but never makes the mistake of trying to present them as actually good people.
He also does wonders with the stoner aesthetic, saturating the whole film with rich, gorgeous colours that provide beauty even as the action gets grotty. Mixed in with a wonderful easy listening soundtrack, these visuals make The Beach Bum an undemanding delight to watch. Your mileage will certainly vary based on how charming or otherwise you find its lackadaisical approach to story and stakes, but if you simply want to be entertained, it’s a magical ride.