22 year old Zak (Zack Gottsagen) escapes from the old people’s home he’s forced to live in due to the lack of support available for his Down syndrome and goes in search of his wrestling idol Salt Water Red Neck (Thomas Haden Church) to train in his wrestling school. They should have called it Huckleberry Fan.
Along the way he encounters John Hawkes (Shia LaBeouf) a man who’s become embroiled in such a serious dispute over crab pots that he’s been forced on the run in fear for his life. Together the two journey by land and river and find out things about themselves and so on…
The Peanut Butter Falcon is written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, who are better at the directing. It’s excellently made with gorgeous Mud-style cinematography of beautiful, unspoiled locations that provide a grand backdrop to this intimate story. Yet this mature, naturalistic style is at odds with the often absurd and implausible events of the film.
It also suffers from storytelling which is both rote and ham fisted, ticking predictable boxes through clunky, coincidence-heavy scenes while relying on hazy character motivations. But these flaws can be easily overlooked due to its sheer likability, and the obvious passion for the project of everyone involved.
It’s buoyed by an excellent central performance from break-out star Gottsagen, around whom the film was built after he met Nilson and Schwartz in 2011. He’s an endearing lead and strikes believable chemistry with LeBoeuf and Dakota Johnson as his considerate, cautious carer. Add in some occasional laughs and you get solid feel-good fare, even if it falls short of the similar Hunt for the Wilderpeople.