Dir; Tyler Nilson, Mike Schwartz. Starring; Shia Lebouf, Dakota Johnson, Zack Gottsagen. PG-13. Color. 93 min.
One can try all they want, but you cannot cage spirit. That is the essence of “The Peanut Butter Falcon”, the new film from the writer/director duo of Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz. A down syndrome young man by the name of Zak who has been rejected by his family shows us that maybe, just maybe, he is living a far more fulfilling life than the rest of us boring people.
Zak is played by newcomer Zack Gottsagen. Zak is holed up at some type of low-end caregiving facility in Georgia and has befriended a caretaker named Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), who has labeled him as a flight risk after multiple escape attempts. The young man is obsessed with an old video of a D-Grade wrestler named The Salt Water Redneck. With the help of his salty old man roommate Carl (Bruce Dern) and some creative lubrication Zak escapes armed with nothing but a pair of whitey-tighties and a dream of meeting his hero.
Meanwhile we have Tyler (Shia Lebouf), a drifter who is running from a fisherman thug in Duncan (John Hawkes) who’s boat he burned down as Duncan is a trailer park gangster. Our two runaways stumble upon each other and form a bond. Their relationship is kind of like Riggs and Murtagh in “Lethal Weapon” minus the shooting. Tyler is the smart one who’s ‘too old for this shit’ and the other is a mentally challenged young gun, aka Mel Gibson.
Refusing to leave Tyler alone he reluctantly agrees to travel with Zak to the supposed hometown of The Salt Water Redneck. After a series of botched coastal adventures that involve cliche friend bonding, Zak takes on the wrestling name of The Peanut Butter Falcon. The pair attempt to steal a boat from a rundown old shack when a skinny black man with a gun named Jasper comes out to see what the hell is going on.
Side note; the actor playing Jasper has refrained from his name being released in both the credits and online. That being said, Jasper is one of the most awesomely badass movie side characters in years. That is not an exaggeration. I’ll let you discover that gem.
Jasper allows the misfits to build a boat out of old discarded materials on his property and their journey down the river continues.
While the runaways are living life they are also being sought out. Zak’s caretaker Eleanor finally tracks them down and is forced to join the adventure in helping fulfill a young man’s dream. A young man who has never had any reason to dream at all.
There are a lot of good elements but also some not so good ones. The fishermen chasing down Shia Lebouf side plot is a mess and feels like a completely different film aside of the main misfits coming together storyline. Don’t get me started on the way they show up out of nowhere during the climax to maybe make things happen. Dakota Johnson is also totally out of her element. She is a competent actress but when she is working next to Shia Lebouf, who is a person I hate as a human in real life, the difference in talent is very much apparent.
Then there is the good. The camerawork from Cinematographer Nigel Bluck is hypnotic. Having shot several episodes of “True Detective” in the past, Bluck knows how to showcase the Deep South. Lebouf’s character is haunted by a terrible family tragedy which is done with a high level of class and is never force fed to you. The third act is also very well done. Several moments throughout the film are a bit over-schmaltzy, particularly between Shia and Dakota. But the ending for our Peanut Butter Falcon hero is spot on because it is not perfect but real, well kinda.
In a strange way the imperfections with this film almost help to enhance the spirit of it at the same time. A wonky first act suddenly gets hit with a jolt of perfection by a blind man named Jasper. Romantic formula begins to settle in before young Zak is allowed his moment which includes former WWF superstars like Mick Foley aka “Mankind” and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. To sum up “The Peanut Butter Falcon”, it is similar to any other journey. Some parts are unforgettable. Others totally suck. But in the end it is a rewarding experience to remember.
Suck Factor: 2out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!