Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz deliver a charming ode to Mark Twain in their refreshed take on the classic, odd couple story. Zack Gottsagen stars alongside Shia LaBeouf as the wanna-be wrestler Zak, held back from his dreams by his Down syndrome. After escaping from a nursing home, Zak forms an unlikely bond with mysterious tough-man Tyler (LaBeouf), currently on the run from white-trash crabbers. Despite the – oftentimes humorous – clashes and confusions, Zak and Tyler join forces to help each other on their journeys; Tyler training and guiding Zak to his hero’s wresting school, and Zak teaching Tyler the importance of patience, love and companionship.
The Peanut Butter Falcon is a delightful comedy-drama that deposits a poignant message on the treatment of those with disabilities. Nilson and Schwartz respectfully achieve what many other films miss, which is acknowledging Zak’s Down syndrome without making the film about it. Tyler stands as an example of what society should strive for in terms of accepting and supporting those with disabilities – providing assistance when it’s needed, but without being derogatory. For example, Tyler insists to Zak’s social worker Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) that he can dress himself, and enforces strict rules throughout the duos adventure (the main one being “I’m in charge. And you’re gonna carry your own weight.”)
Zack was especially chosen for The Peanut Butter Falcon after flexing his talents at an acting camp in Vermont, and holds a clear chemistry with LaBeouf that sparkles through the movie. The chase from the crabbers and Eleanor’s frantic searching gives the film a sense of urgency and energy, balancing out the gentle, feel good side that could have easily spiraled into predictability. Luckily, Nilson and Schwartz dodge this bullet and inject the film with an inspiring spirit. LaBeouf commits a strong performance as the wandering, troubled soul that challenges the norms of society. His alluded backstory gives the film an air of mystery, and a depth that reaches beyond just another buddy movie.
An almost mythical waterside setting immerses the audience in Zak and Tyler’s own little world, where natures obstacles can be manipulated into opportunities to train and improve. Nilson and Schwartz narrowly avoid over-sentimentality by reshaping the clear-cut happy ending. Yet, with that said, viewers still receive exactly what they expect going in: for their hearts to be warmed, and minds inspired. The Peanut Butter Falcon harbours a beautiful message on the importance of fellowship; one that sheds light on the talents of an under-documented minority in cinema.
Signature Entertainment presents The Peanut Butter Falcon on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital from 24th February.