Movie review: 'The Beach Bum'

Brad Keefe

At least on paper, there might not be a wackier film project we'll see this year than “The Beach Bum.”

Anything that begins with writer-director Harmony Korine is going to be, well, wacky.

Korine was a young skateboarder when he met photographer Larry Clark in New York City in 1995. Clark asked Korine to write a film script centered on youth culture during the AIDS crisis.

The result was “Kids,” a raw movie that plays out like a parental nightmare and hasn't exactly stood the test of time.

But this kick-started a film career that allowed Korine to make some bonkers low-budget flicks, starting with 1997's “Gummo” (still among his best) and including the aptly named “Trash Humpers.”

More unexpected was his comeback foray into the glossier music video world he explored in “Spring Breakers.”

“The Beach Bum” feels like a project born out of a bender. Korine teams with Matthew McConaughey in the role he seems born to play: a free-spirited stoner coasting through life with a mischievous grin.

McConaughey plays Moondog, an aging poet living the peak Key West life of hanging out in beach dive bars and generally not seeming to have a care or give an eff.

The plot drifts appropriately as Moondog lives a life of hedonism as a staple of Key West. He still holds a deep bond with the mother of his child (Isla Fisher), but he can't be tied down. He bounces through life like a pinball. And he always seems to land on his feet.

Where do you start with a movie that casts Snoop Dogg as a character named (I am not making this up) Lingerie?

Moondog is both the proverbial “old soul” and a man-child. His journey is an endless summer that seems mostly free of consequence, but when consequences hit, he's processing it in his own way and generally in a haze.

Most of the credit for “The Beach Bum” having some actual heart goes to McConaughey. It leans into an easygoing side the actor has displayed since “Dazed and Confused.” He is, indeed, all right, all right, all right in this movie.

And he anchors some of Korine's most bonkers tendencies, of which there are plenty on display. Your enjoyment will depend on how much you're along for the ride.

In addition to Snoop Dogg's Lingerie, there's (again, not making this up) Jimmy Buffett. As himself, of course.

You've got Jonah Hill playing a Southern dandy literary agent, and Zac Efron as a wild preacher's kid with a wilder haircut (style inspo: James Franco's Alien in “Spring Breakers”).

“The Beach Bum” is far from perfect, but if you're feeling its vibe, it goes a long way. Let's get ready to summer.

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4 stars out of 5

“The Beach Bum”