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The Peanut Butter Falcon

Saccharine story; great leads

Zak (Zack Gottsagen) runs away from his care home to make his dream of becoming a wrestler come true and is helped in his quest by Tyler (Shia LaBeouf). <<© Roadside Attractions>>

As an adult with Down syndrome and no family, Zak (Zack Gottsagen, making his feature debut) is a man without a place. He’s too old for children’s homes and too vulnerable for rehab centers. He winds up in a state-run nursing home.
    He is popular with both staff and residents, but at 22 he doesn’t want to waste his life in a nursing home. He dreams of becoming a professional wrestler, like his hero The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). Where he wants to be is at wrestling school in North Carolina.
    With the help of some senior residents, he escapes the nursing home and finds himself alone on the rivers of North Carolina. Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a drifter with a mysterious past, agrees to take him to the wrestling school. Cut to a water chase by well-meaning state workers and angry fishermen.
    Can this motley duo reach their destination?
    This modernized take on Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a sweet story of chasing your dreams and finding your family. Directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, in their feature debut, make a heartfelt and beautifully shot film, capturing the wild beauty of North Carolina’s seas and marshes. Each backwoods spot is populated with characters who could have stepped out of the pages of a Twain tale.
    If only they had taken equal care with the script.
    Sincerity is both the film’s greatest asset and its greatest weakness. Nilson and Schwartz take pains to give dimensional character to Zak, but not to the people he encounters. Antagonists can be cartoonish in their wickedness. An extraneous love subplot lands with the dull thud of a bird hitting a window. The message is so firmly hammered that it becomes tiresome.
    On the plus side, LaBeouf and Gottsagen give utterly wonderful central performances. The scenes where they’re goofing around in fields and on rafts are brimming with joy. Newcomer Gottsagen has a natural screen presence, and his performance anchors the film. His Zak is determined, kind and in love with discovering new things. He blossoms the moment he escapes the nursing home. LaBeouf has never been better, in a genuine likeable turn. His Tyler is damaged by life but still a deeply good soul.
    Their chemistry makes The Peanut Butter Falcon worth the ticket. It’s rare to capture a friendship so wonderfully on film.

Good Dramedy • PG-13 • 97 mins.


~~~ New this Week ~~~

It Chapter Two

    After seemingly defeating the evil Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), the members of The Losers Club dispersed. Then children go missing again in Derry, Maine, and Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) asks his friends to return. Pennywise is back, stronger than ever.
    Can the adult Losers Club find in each other the strength they had as children?
    This sequel to It has a more difficult task than its blockbuster original. The best bits of Stephen King’s novel all involve the Losers as children; the adult sections drag by comparison. So It Chapter Two has an uphill battle to be received as well as the first film.
    On the plus side, director Andy Muschietti is back, meaning gorgeous looks and plenty of chills. Muschietti also has a deft hand at editing, trimming down King’s novel into a streamlined story. Stars like Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and Bill Hader should help.
    If you were a fan of the first movie (or the book), this should be an excellent way to spend three hours. But don’t buy the big soda. With that running time and plenty of jump scares, your bladder doesn’t need any more stress.

Prospects: Bright • R • 169 mins.