Review: McConaughey off his rocker in wild 'Beach Bum'

The Oscar winner gets way into the spirit of Harmony Korine's manic comedy

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Matthew McConaughey in "The Beach Bum."

Matthew McConaughey gives his most Matthew McConaughey-ian performance to date as a washed-up stoner poet who keeps falling upward in Harmony Korine's deliriously fun comic goof-off "The Beach Bum." 

McConaughey plays Moondog, a Florida burnout who lives his life without a care, stumbling from one PBR tallboy to the next, fanny pack hanging around his waist. He's long since left society's rules behind and lives his life in a haze of weed, sex and the Key West sunshine, occasionally banging out some juvenile prose on his trusty typewriter. 

Moondog is a thoroughly McConaughey creation, and he pours himself into the role with the zeal of a madman. Imagine if the actor had flunked out of movies after his performance as Wooderson in "Dazed and Confused," grown his hair out and moved to Key West to live in semi-infamy as a local legend and eccentric party king, sometimes dressing like Guy Fieri. That's Moondog. 

And that's "The Beach Bum," which follows Moondog through episodic adventures but isn't concerned with narrative as much as it is in studying this free spirit's wayward yet joyous lifestyle.

There's a loose plot involving Moondog's quest to win millions in inheritance, which Korine uses to sprinkle in a handful of extended cameos from Martin Lawrence (who plays a dolphin enthusiast named Captain Wack), Snoop Dogg (playing Lingerie, an R&B singer), Jonah Hill (donning a ludicrous Louisiana accent as Moondog's publisher), Zac Efron (as a rehab patient who looks like he styled his beard on a panini press) and Jimmy Buffett (as himself, because at this point, why not). 

Korine, who from "Gummo" to "Spring Breakers" has built a career as a rebel auteur, finds bliss in the story of Moondog, and "The Beach Bum" is his most upbeat film to date. "I like to have fun, man," Moondog says, explaining his life philosophy to a journalist. And sometimes, that's enough.


'The Beach Bum'


Rated R: for pervasive drug and alcohol use, language throughout, nudity and some strong sexual content

Running time: 95 minutes