Review - 'The Peanut Butter Falcon'
Need a breath of fresh air after a summer full of cacophonous CGI slug-fests, Disney remakes and pointless reboots? Well, you’re in luck. The Peanut Butter Falcon is a sufficient pallet-cleanser to re-align you for the Fall movie season.
The Peanut Butter Falcon tells the story of Zak (Zack Gottsagen) a disabled young man who feels shackled by the people around him. When he escapes the retirement home he is confined in in order to fulfill his dream of becoming a wrestler, he runs into Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a man who has hit a rough patch of his life. Together they form a kinship and Tyler agrees to help Zak achieve his goal.
I’d be hard-pressed to think of a film with intentions as pure as The Peanut Butter Falcon’s this year. The movie, which takes beats from The Adventures Huckleberry Finn and is based off of star Zack Gottsagen’s real-life desire to be an actor, has a very solid back-bone for a story, and one that is ripe for emotional pay-offs. Witnessing someone push passed their physical and/or mental boundaries and triumph against all odds is always satisfying, particularly when handled with grace like it is here. My one complaint? I just wish it had taken its time.
Falcon moves fast, and events happen in quick succession, rushing its audience along to the next tragedy, the next breakthrough, the next resolution. While this ensures that the film is never boring, it also ends up feeling rushed, like the filmmakers were afraid that the audience was going to lose interest if they lingered in one place for too long. I wanted more interactions between the characters and more scenes of stillness to appreciate the atmosphere. We get a few scenes of Zak bonding with Tyler, and then Tyler and Zack bonding with Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), enough to justify progressing the story further, but not enough to truly break down the characters and then build them back up. If this film had had a longer runway, it might have had me balling by the end, but it settles for being an inspiring adventure that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, which in its own right is nothing to be upset about, it just could have been a little deeper.
Zack Gottsagen, who plays Zak, is the heart of this film, and he does an excellent job in the role. His determination, sense of humor, and observations are inspiring and his effortless chemistry with Tyler is easily the strongest aspect of the movie. Speaking of Tyler, Shia LaBeouf gives an impressive performance as a man who is severely down-on-his-luck and running from dangerous people. Without giving away too much, his character arc and resolution is just as satisfying and uplifting as Zak’s. Unfortunately, Eleanor, played by Dakota Johnson, doesn’t bring too much to the table, and I don’t believe it to be Johnson’s fault. Her character is basically Zak’s caretaker, and is employed at the retirement home where he resides. She’s written to be a bit tone-deaf and slow on the uptake, which I feel is poor writing for someone who has spent much more time with Zak, yet by the end of the film, knows less about him than Tyler, who got to know Zak over the course of a few days. Also notable is Thomas Haden Church, who plays a retired wrestler named “The Saltwater Redneck”, of which Zak has watched a VHS featuring him numerous times. I wouldn’t say Church is really pushing boundaries in the role, but he’s a charming and likable presence nonetheless.
The Peanut Butter Falcon is one of the most unabashedly feel-good movies I have seen this year, and while I don’t think it’s a perfect film and could have used at least twenty more minutes to give its emotional pay-offs more of a wallop, directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz know all of the right pleasure centers to hit.