“The Peanut Butter Falcon” is the kind of film that could have gone very wrong and wound up exploitative, sentimental and sappy.
Fortunately, under the guidance of co-directors and co-writers Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz, this is a sweet story of friendship that has an old school southern charm about it. “Falcon” is easy to watch and really easy to like.
The film tells the story of Zak (newcomer Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome living in a nursing home. Zak dreams of leaving the nursing home to pursue his desire to attend a nearby wrestling school run by his idol, the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church).
Zak escapes one night and begins his quest to find the school, stowing away in a boat owned by a young man named Tyler (Shia LaBeouf). Tyler, a fisherman with his own problems, is on the run from a rival (John Hawkes) and still grieving over the death of his brother.
The two form an unlikely friendship with Tyler agreeing to help Zak find the school, but their journey hits several roadblocks – including a nursing employee named Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), who wants to bring Zak back home.
“Peanut Butter Falcon” is pretty laid-back story that gets by on the strength of a very talented and capable cast. Gottsagen is a delight here, charming and funny with fantastic chemistry with LaBeouf (who continues to make interesting career choices). Their friendship is believable and develops in an honest and straightforward manner.
Johnson is good as well, as is Hawkes and Church and Bruce Dern in a small role as Zak’s roommate in the nursing home, but this is all about Gottsagen and LaBeouf. Their friendship is the heart and soul of “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” providing the emotional punch that really brings this home.
Even when the movie takes some familiar turns, it’s that relationship that keeps the film focused.
Nilson and Schwartz understand this and allow their two leads to shine, creating a delightful movie about family and chasing your dreams that is not to be missed.