Shia LeBeouf Dakota Johnson Zack Gottsagen
John Hawkes Thomas Haden Church Bruce Dern
Tyler (LeBeouf) and Zak (Gottsagen) make a most unlikely pair—almost as implausible as peanut butter and falcon. But all of it comes together in this charming tale of overcoming the odds and living in the moment—against the background of catchy folk music tunes.
Local thief Tyler, holding a lot of anger and depression, is on the run when his path crosses that of Zak, an orphaned runaway from the nursing home, with Down’s Syndrome. Zak has hidden away in Tyler’s boat, not realizing that Tyler is being chased by the men he stole from. On Zak’s tail is his caretaker Carolyn (Johnson) from the home. But after a touch-and-go start, Tyler and Zak have figured out a way to survive in the wild, and they’ve become bro’s with a special handshake.
Having grown up with an older brother, now deceased, who was his mentor, Tyler is basically honorable and doesn’t have the heart to leave Zak behind. Instead, he becomes Zak’s mentor, something that Zak is sorely in need of after a life of being over-protected. His hunger for masculine influence is expressed by a burning desire to meet his idol, Salt Water Redneck (Church), and attend his wrestling school. Tyler encourages him in this pursuit, promises to take him there, teaches him survival skills like swimming (after Zak had almost drowned), and even begins training him for wrestling by building up his strength. When Zak is indulging in peanut butter one evening, Tyler says he needs to pick out a wrestling name, an “alter ego.” Zak thinks of a falcon, and somehow the peanut butter gets mixed in, and the name “Peanut Butter Falcon” is celebrated.
Meanwhile, the dedicated Carolyn, who has become something of a mother figure to Zak, is canvassing the countryside with a picture of Zak and questioning whether anyone has seen him. When she finally locates him and Tyler on the beach with their makeshift raft, she gets drawn into their adventure, and the duo becomes an even more unlikely threesome (a “family!” Zak proudly proclaims).
Their journey to Salt Water Redneck will be filled with folksy adventures and danger in the form of Tyler’s determined pursuers. These travels are entertaining and frequently amusing as we see them accommodate to one another, develop insights, and form a close bond.
Peanut Butter Falcon is enjoyable as light entertainment with some soul and human truths that give it some substance, and a number of close calls that create excitement. The cast is probably the most impressive quality it has. Applause is in order for Zack Gottsagen for his convincing portrayal of his character with a combination of pluckiness, determination, likeability, and sheer joy. Tyler is a different role for Shia LeBeouf, one that is more intimate and emotional than his usual, and he pulls it off nicely. John Hawkes, Thomas Hayden Church, and Bruce Dern all cinch the entertainment value of their distinctive cameos, for which they are perfectly cast.
Suspend disbelief and take in this fanciful, heartwarming film.