The Peanut Butter Falcon Movie Review
The Peanut Butter Falcon stars Shia LeBeouf, Zach Gottsagen, and Dakota Johnson and was directed by the duo of Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. It tells the story of Zak, played by Zach Gottsagen, who’s a young man with Down Syndrome who runs away from a nursing home in hopes of meeting and training with his wrestling idol. On the way, Zak meets Tyler, played by Shia LaBeouf, who’s also on the run and reluctantly lets Zak tag along with him.
I had the opportunity to attend an early screening of this movie about a week and a half ago which was pretty exciting for a few reasons. This was my first early screening in about a decade; I think the last pre-screening I went to was for District 9. But, it wasn’t just the excitement of getting to see this movie early that made it such a good experience, it was getting to see it in a packed theater.
I don’t think there’s any other scenario where I would’ve had that experience with an indie film like this, but I’m so glad I did cause this was a great movie to see with a crowd. I went into this movie pretty much blind and judging from the conversations that were going on around me while we waited for the screening to start, most of the people there were in the same boat. No pun intended. The only thing I had to go on was a really brief synopsis blurb that was on the screening pass and it sounded okay, but didn’t seem like anything exceptional. But man was this a good movie.
That plot synopsis totally undersold this film. I know a lot of people throw around the term ëfeel-good movieî and that it’s kind of developed a bit of a negative connotation as a synonym for over-sentimental, largely fluff movies, but The Peanut Butter Falcon is, without question, a feel-good movie. You’re gonna see a lot of adjectives being used to describe this film that would probably usually make you roll your eyes. Words like heartwarming, sweet, charming, touching. And they’re all accurate.
But before you dramatically sigh and roll your eyes, you should know that this movie never gets overly-saccharine. It has this sorta down-to-Earth, natural feel to it that prevents it from ever veering into that schmaltzy, preachy territory that you might expect from a movie like this. So, even though it’s heartwarming, it’s charming, and it’s sweet, it’s also atypically grounded. One of the most surprising and stand-out aspects of this movie was its humor. This movie is incredibly funny and manages to get its laughs from a number of comedic sources. The premise itself is so unusual that there’s a ton of situational humor. There’s also a lot of physical comedy which never really devolves into slapstick, but rather melds with the situational humor. And then you’ve got the script which has some extremely funny dialogue that’s really elevated by the delivery and comedic timing, especially by Zach Gottsagen. These types of heartwarming indie movies usually elicit a few chuckles, but the theater was absolutely cracking up throughout the movie.
The Peanut Butter Falcon is one of those movies that doesn’t seem like it’s gonna be anything special. It’s really easy to take one look at that quirky title, read that plot synopsis, and dismiss this as just another comedy-drama about following your dreams. But don’t do that. Don’t just lump it in with any number of other movies and call it a day. All of the individual pieces that make this movie up are familiar: the unlikely and reluctant pairing of the main characters, the Huck Finn-esque raft adventure, the long-shot dream plot. They’re all pieces you’ve seen before, but never put together in quite the way they are here or with quite the same tonal balance. The plot and story beats might not surprise you, but I think this movie as a whole is gonna surprise a lot of people. Alright, let’s talk about the pros and cons.
Pro number one is the humor. I didn’t exactly have many expectations regarding this movie cause I barely knew anything about it going in, but I certainly didn’t anticipate that it was gonna be so funny. Between the dialogue, the physical comedy, and the situational humor, this movie had me chuckling a lot. I’ve said it before: I’m not an outward expression of emotions at the theater kinda person, but I laughed. More than once. It’s a surprisingly entertaining movie. The second pro is how heartwarming it is. Now I know, ìOh, it’s heartwarming, it’s sweet.î Believe me, I can hear your eyeballs rolling back into your heads right now. But, that’s what this movie is. It’s feel-good. It’s uplifting, it makes you happy, it makes you smile. But again, it’s never done in a stilted way. With the premise and characters it has, you expect the story to hit certain beats and go in certain predictable and melodramatic directions, but it doesn’t. It’s doesn’t play out in that stereotypical inspirational movie kinda way. It feels very natural despite its unusual story.
Pro number three has gotta be the performances. All three of the leads were incredibly good. Shia LeBeouf does a fantastic job of playing the troubled, but ultimately kind-hearted Tyler and he had great chemistry with Zach Gottsagen. Speaking of Gottsagen, wow. This was his first role in a feature film and he did an excellent job of getting across both the heart and humor. I really can’t wait to see what he does in the future. Another surprise was Dakota Johnson as Eleanor, the nursing home caregiver charged with finding Zak after he runs away. She also brought a good deal of comedy to the movie, which could’ve been tough considering her character’s supposed to be the sensible one of the story. As far as cons go, I don’t have anything major. I guess if I had to pick something, it would probably be the subplot involving the people chasing Tyler. It adds some tension and is a necessary catalyst for the story, but really isn’t needed once Tyler and Zak’s adventure’s underway.
One chase subplot’s enough and we get that with Eleanor. Honestly, given what we learn about Tyler’s history, I don’t think we needed something physical for him to be running away from. I think his past would’ve been enough. I’m gonna give The Peanut Butter Falcon 4.5 out of 5 paws. This is one of my favorite movies of the year and is definitely the biggest surprise of the year for me so far. It was extremely funny, very heartfelt, and ultimately just a really good movie. I would recommend The Peanut Butter Falcon to just about anybody. It’s a simple, feel-good movie that I think everybody could find something to like in. It’s got a unique premise, but it’s still a familiar enough story that you can just sit back and enjoy its heartfelt humor. If you liked The Peanut Butter Falcon, I would recommend Mud for a vaguely similar general premise and some more great performances.
If you liked the road-trip-in-pursuit-of-a-dream storyline, make sure you check out Little Miss Sunshine for a dysfunctional family comedy drama. And if you liked the pseudo-survival in the wilderness aspects. I’d recommend The Kings of Summer. It’s not as funny or heartfelt as this film, but it’s a unique take on the overcrowded coming-of-age genre. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen The Peanut Butter Falcon? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What’s your favorite movie featuring an unlikely pair going on an adventure? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.