Movie Review: “The Peanut Butter Falcon”
The Peanut Butter Falcon
Zak (Zack Gottsagen) has down syndrome, and he has no one to take care of him. His family left him, and he has been placed in a nursing home, which has the staff and the resources to take care of him. However, Zak is not dumb. He realizes that he is in a nursing home, has dreams beyond the walls of the nursing home, and knows he has to escape. He is still young, and has most of his life still ahead of him, and he refuses to spend the rest of that life inside a nursing home. Instead, he wants to get out, and wants to get to a professional wrestling school run by his hero, Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church).
Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) has been struggling to get his life together. He has found a gig where he borrows (steals) a bunch of crab baskets, catches crabs, cleans them to be sold, then returns the baskets. Unfortunately, the owner of those baskets has not taken kindly to Tyler's theft, and he has a personal vendetta against Tyler for it. Tyler is trying to get on his feet, but is still dealing with the death of his older brother. As Zak escapes the nursing home, and with Tyler on the run from the crab fishermen, the two cross paths with one another and they form an unlikely duo.
The Pros & Cons
The Crab Fishermen (-4pts)
Eleanor & The Tracking (-4pts)
Zak & Tyler (+8pts)
The Ending (-3pts)
Pro: Zak (+8pts)
Zak's story was definitely a compelling one. Initially, it was a sad story. This was a man who was born with a disability, and whose family turned their backs on him. He was left with no one, could not support himself, and ended up in a nursing home where he was treated as if he were as incapable and helpless as some of the other residents in the nursing home.
He was treated as if he were a child that had to constantly be babysat, and was treated as if he was incapable of doing basic things. If he did not get out of the nursing home, he would have to spend the rest of his life (most likely several decades) like that, which would be a sad life. Zak, however, had bigger dreams. He had dreams of becoming a professional wrestler, and he dreamt of learning from his hero. Zak's story was a sad one right off the bat, but it had hope, and you will want to see him succeed. Zak was a character whose story will pull at your heart strings, and he was a character that was incredibly easy to get invested in, and Zach Gottsagen (the actor in the role) did a wonderful job of bringing this character to life in an impactful way.
Con: The Crab Fishermen (-4pts)
I was pretty disappointed with these characters. They were the crab fishermen that Tyler had stolen the crab baskets from, and were the ones who had the personal vendetta against Tyler as a result. They were your stereotypical antagonists, who had been wronged and were now coming for Tyler no matter where he went. Rather than accept that Tyler was gone and move on themselves, these guys just had to find him. They were boring, uninteresting, stereotypical antagonists, but they were also wildly inconsistent.
At one point in the movie, Tyler was very obviously within visibility of the crab fishermen, but they conveniently were unable to see him. Yet for the rest of the movie they seemed to be masters of tracking—I will get into that later in this review. The writers also repeatedly flip-flopped on these characters' motivations, whenever it was convenient for their story for these characters to act a certain way. Sometimes they were after Tyler with a vengeance, when the filmmakers wanted to build suspense and add excitement. Other times they conveniently moved on, when it was no longer convenient for the writers for these characters to be on Tyler's tail. On the surface, these characters were bland, uninteresting antagonists, but once you dig a little deeper into their story and motivations, you will see that they were wildly inconsistent and were used as a plot device for the writers to bring in and out of the story whenever their presence—or lack thereof—was more convenient.
Pro: Tyler (+6pts)
Tyler's story was also an interesting one. He mourned the death of his older brother, and he had been struggling to move on from that when this story began. He was reluctant to help Zak when the two met, but he could not turn his back on someone he knew was going to get themselves into trouble, and who would be helpless when that trouble came. Tyler's story was not a complicated one. He missed his brother, he felt responsible for his brother's death, and he wanted to help Zak (someone Tyler knew needed help). It was a story of redemption, and it was a story about being there for other people, and it was a story that I enjoyed watching.
Con: Eleanor & The Tracking (-4pts)
Okay, I understood Eleanor's (Dakota Johnson) involvement in the beginning of this story, as she worked at the nursing home where she looked after Zak. However, once Zak escaped, I thought Eleanor's involvement in the story felt forced and unbelievable. After Zak escaped, I expected her to worry, and I expected her to hope for him to come back. However, what I did not expect was that her boss would task her with tracking Zak down. Even if her boss wanted Zak found, it made no sense that Eleanor would be the one tasked with doing so.
This brings me to another, somewhat related issue with this story. Some characters—specifically Eleanor and the crab fishermen—had an oddly convenient time tracking Tyler and Zak. The way that Tyler and Zak were traveling, the distance they had gone, and the time they had taken to do so, left it very unbelievable that these other characters would have been able to track them as easily as they did. I did not like the characters in the first place, and their tracking ability was comically convenient for the writers. These characters were based almost entirely on lazy writing, and their recurring appearances were both disappointing and annoying, as I felt like this story could have been a lot better if the writers had given more thought to these characters.
Pro: Zack & Tyler (+8pts)
I already explained what I liked about each of these characters individually, but their relationship together was something else entirely. Both characters benefited from their unlikely duo. Zak obviously benefited from having someone help him find his hero, Salt Water Redneck, but he also benefited from traveling with Tyler, as Tyler treated him like he would treat any other human being, rather than treating him like a helpless child as he had been treated for so long. However, Tyler's benefit was more complex.
Zak gave Tyler hope. Tyler was in a dark place after the loss of his brother, but his friendship with Zak helped pull him up. Both characters benefited from their friendship, but watching them was honestly just a lot of fun. I liked their dynamic with one another, and it made it so that this drama never felt boring. It was an emotional, feel-good kind of story, and they chemistry between these two characters made it fun to watch.
Con: The Ending (-3pts)
I am going to keep this brief, as I cannot say too much without spoiling the ending. However, I can say that the ending was anti-climactic, and seemed like a cop-out. The climax happened, and I thought it would lead to an impactful ending. Then the filmmakers sort of just undid their climactic moment, almost immediately. It also did not make any sense why some characters would have been okay with things going the way that they did. The filmmakers had a really impactful ending right at their fingertips. Unfortunately, they went another way, and their ending made for disappointingly bland conclusion.
Grade: B+ (86pts)
The best things about this movie were the two main characters and their friendship together. Zak's story was incredibly easy to sympathize with, and the character was incredibly easy to root for. Then there was Tyler, whose redemption story was one that I wanted to see completed. Their individual stories were compelling, but their friendship together was great as well. They each benefited from traveling with the other, and their dynamic was really entertaining to watch.
It was a heartwarming story, with strong primary characters, but the movie was not without its flaws. The character of Eleanor felt unnecessarily forced into this story, and her tracking skills were laughably ridiculous. Then there were the crab fishermen, who were nothing but a couple of lazily written plot devices that the filmmakers kept flip-flopping on (with respect to their motivations). This movie was at its best when it was focused on Zak, Tyler, and the friendship between them. The ending felt like a bit of a cop-out, but the road to it was one that I enjoyed watching.