There are plenty of touching moments in “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” the story of a young man with Down syndrome longing to become a professional wrestler, but there are also just as many gaps – one that make them difficult to overlook in this contemporary nod to “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
Filled with rafts, drifters and redemption, it’s practically an homage. It just lacks the same great writing.
Zack Gottsagen stars as Zak, a wrestling wannabe, who, for some reason, is living in a nursing home. He wants out and gets help from a drifter named Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), who invites him to head down river. On a homemade raft (with a fairly professional sail), they encounter all sorts of independent spirits before meeting up with Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), a woman charged with bringing Zak back.
She understands the mission, joins them and finds her own happy place.
“Falcon,” however, doesn’t come into its own until the three meet Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church), an old wrestler who encourages others to study at his school. The pitch was made years earlier (Zak has a videotape of his bouts) and hardly holds true anymore.
Still, Tyler finds Salt Water, gets his buy-in and helps Zak acquire a piece of his dream. Calling himself the “Peanut Butter Falcon,” Zak gets into the ring and shows what all those years of watching wrestling has done for him.
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The film also lets Tyler show he’s not just a pyromaniac who robs crab traps. He has a giving heart and a way with Zak that those at the nursing home don’t understand. Tyler also has a thing for Eleanor, which suggests “Falcon” probably has more to say.
Directors Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz do plenty with their water scenes (taking advantage of sunsets and water that stretches for miles), but they don’t necessarily fill in the details needed to understand why these three are where they are.
Gottsagen does a fine job as the dreamer; Johnson is apt as his keeper and LaBeouf is stellar as a man who hasn’t had a real opportunity to embrace responsibility until it meets him by chance.
“Peanut Butter Falcon” could have used more scenes with Church (who’s really going out of his own wheelhouse) and Bruce Dern (who makes you want to know more about life in the nursing home). They serve as prods to move the story along.
The plot doesn’t always flow naturally, but it gets where it’s going.