Updated: Mar 6, 2020
Despite sounding like a unique children's title, "The Peanut Butter Falcon" comes off as an adult piece bearing familiar elements. It blends parts of "Rain Man" and "Huckleberry Finn" as it follows a journey that includes rafting southern waterways.
The "Rain Man" bits come from Zack Gottsagen, an actor with Down Syndrome. His character, also called Zac, escapes a state facility and hooks up with Shia La Beouf as a troubled man on the run. A mismatched duo, the two follow road movie rules — okay, water rafting rules — as they form an unlikely bond and find a destination that enriches them.
Dakota Johnson eventually joins them on the voyage, demonstrating more screen magnetism than the Fifty Shades of Grey series ever allowed her. She lights up the screen with warmth and natural ease. Meanwhile, La Beouf comes off better than he managed in "The Transformers" and the various big-budgeted monstrosities that once made him a star with a marketable name. But the unique selling point comes from Gottsagen, who gives the story its warmth and heart.
An actor for more than a decade, Gottsagen gets the chance to shine in a starring role that requires a blend of sincerity and comic. His presence gives the movie its sense of authenticity, helpful since many plot elements inspire some eyebrow raising doubts. But creators Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz, dually credited as writers and directors, overcome much of their credibility stretching points by aiming for meaningful truths about the need for respect and consideration. They present Zac as a young man capable of far more than most people expect, a man who suffers because so few allow him to even attempt his goals.
In contrast, his traveling companions give him a chance — and really, who wants to argue with such good intentions? Swept up in those bayou waters, we all root for Zack and happily accept whatever good fortune the writers provide for him.
This review was originally aired on 9/6/2019.
You can listen to it online at https://www.kunr.org/post/peanut-butter-falcon#stream/0