Every so often, a movie comes along and just makes you feel good. A movie has the power to move you and make you think about the current world, and then dare you to dream of a better one. Movies are a wonderful artform that just may introduce many of us to a fictional hero to look up to in our youth. Looking back on a few films in the past, I think of a few stories involving a kid and a hero within the film he or she idolizes. From Jake and “Turbo Man” in “Jingle All the Way” to Miguel and “Ernesto de la Cruz” in “Coco,” there have been many instances of idolization within movies.
In the new movie, directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” Zak (played by Zack Gottsagen) looks up to his wrestling hero “The Saltwater Redneck” and ends up escaping a nursing home with dreams to attend a wrestling school offered by Saltwater. The problem is, Zak has down syndrome and hears about the school from an old VHS tape made by the wrestler many years ago and the school has been shut down for a good amount of time because the wrestler retired. After escaping the nursing home, Zak ends up embarking on the adventure for the wrestling school with Tyler (played by Shia LeBeouf). Tyler, a former commercial crabber, is on the run from a few guys who want him for burning their crabbing gear. The gear is worth a good amount of money and the guys want Tyler to pay them back for it. Eleanor (played by Dakota Johnson) gets thrown into the journey with Zak and Tyler because she is an employee at the nursing home and she is tasked with finding Zak and bringing him back to the home.
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” is easily one of the best movies I have seen about a random friendship. Tyler is a down and out character that could have easily dismissed a kid with down syndrome, but chose to care for someone with no family around him. They created a bond and became great friends. Tyler made a promise to Zak that he would find “The Saltwater Redneck” and his school so Zak can live out his dream. Wrestling is Zak’s lifelong dream and while he was in the home, all he did was watch the VHS tape of his favorite wrestler.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, you often hear stories of bullying and bigotry towards people with a handicap. Some people just turn a blind eye to it, and some people stand up for those that cannot stand up for themselves. Early on in the movie there is a heartwarming scene where Tyler stands up to a few kids bullying Zak. Even though their relationship was very fresh, Tyler did not hesitate to do the right thing and save Zak. It really put a smile on my face. It also made a few of the audience members cheer!
All three members of the main cast did a phenomenal acting job. Especially newcomer Zack Gottsagen! Even though Zack really does have down syndrome, it does not stop him from delivering a powerful performance that just makes you feel amazing! I truly think Shia LeBeouf deserves at least an Oscar nomination for his performance. Since I think LeBeouf is somewhat of an oddball, he did sign onto the movie before even reading the script. After filming the movie, he believes that it has changed him into a softer and more caring person. Zack and Shia had amazing chemistry on screen and you truly believed that they were best of friends from way back! Dakota Johnson also does well in a role that did not seem too challenging for her.
With the filming location of Savannah, Georgia, “The Peanut Butter Falcon” boasts some beautiful scenery within the hour and thirty three minute runtime. I have to admit I did feel that the movie felt a little short. I also felt that the movie ended quite abruptly. I wanted more from the brilliant story! That would be my only gripe about this little film that I recommend everyone sees.
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” is a must see and look for it to make some noise around Oscar season. While it is not a movie you need to rush out and see in a theater, it is a movie you need to see eventually. Period. It will make you look at the world a little bit differently and it may even help you make the world a better place, a world devoid of bullying. The message of the movie is a step in the right direction!