THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED — Some movies entertain you, others have an emotional punch and some have a mixture of the two. But there are some movies that seem to transcend the art and become something more than a movie and have a sincere impact on your life and the way you view the world.
This is high praise, but I think it’s justified to say “The Peanut Butter Falcon” is one of those films.
This low-budget and under-marketed movie made a splash at South By Southwest Film Festival earlier this year in Austin, Texas, and then was somehow turned down by the Sundance Film Festival. Their loss, because we now get the opportunity to see this brilliant film and can clearly see their mistake.
The movie stars Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson and introduces Zack Gottsagen. I don’t want to give much away because I think you should experience this film fresh, but Gottsagen plays Zack, a boy with Down syndrome who has an escape problem.
Zack finds himself on the run from his caretakers and heading to a fabled wrestling school. Along the way, he meets vagabond Tyler, played by LaBeouf, and the two embark on a modern-day Mark Twain fable of friendship and adventure.
The film is both unique and beautiful. Here are some reasons this is a movie everyone needs to see:
Sometimes two actors have so much chemistry on screen that you don’t even care if the movie is any good because you can’t get enough of them — think Robert Redford and Paul Newman in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” or Tom Hanks and Tim Allen from “Toy Story.”
These are iconic duos who let up the screen with their charisma and charm, and I’d put LaBeouf and Gottsagen into that category.
These two are absolutely electric on screen together. When they are split up, they still make for some fantastic performances, but together it’s impossible to not fall in love with this pair.
It’s clear that this friendship continued long after the cameras stopped rolling and the set was shut down. There is a palpable bond between these two that feels more like family than coworkers and that jumps off the screen. Once the credits roll you’ll want to see more and more of Shia and Zack.
As far as individual performances go, I think this may be LaBeouf’s best to date. I know he is a polarizing character and you may or may not like him, but he has an undeniable talent and it is in top form here.
I’ve always been impressed with LaBeouf and his ability to create three-dimensional characters in films like “Fury” and “Man Down,” but he elevates his game to a new level here, and I think this film could be a catalyst to see LaBeouf come back in a big way.
Gottsagen deserves recognition, as well. This actor is full of heart and joy and he is a talent to be reckoned with. You can tell he loves what he does and it’s truly special to see him shine so bright on the screen.
It is totally genuine
During a question and answer session with writers and directors Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz, they said they wrote the film with Zack. They asked him questions about his likes and dislikes, his passions and dreams and even got feedback on dialogue and jokes.
Because of this, Nilson and Schwartz have crafted a genuine piece of art that pays great tribute to the wonderful people like Zack who have Down syndrome or other disabilities.
The true-to-life aspect makes this film something incredibly special and rare. This is a tribute to the beauty and love people like Zack bring into the world and why it’s such a better place because of that.
Its message is universal and important
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” carries an important message that I think everyone needs to hear. The film is about love, loss, forgiving oneself, finding the good in others, loving those around us and doing things because they’re right and not because they’re convenient.
The film also carries an important message that people with Down syndrome aren’t disabled, but rather they are an incredible gift to this world and a shining example of what it means to be good human beings.
Zack’s heart is constantly on his sleeve and it makes for an unforgettable and impactful experience at the cinema.
It’s smart and funny
All the great message and genuine stuff can take a back seat for a minute because I'm guessing you’d all like to know if the movie is actually entertaining.
It's an absolute blast.
It’s an emotional rollercoaster at times, but the storytelling is on point with complex and interesting characters and loads of laugh-out-loud moments.
The theater was in tears from laughter and joy throughout much of the movie and there are lines I will be quoting for years to come.
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” follows familiar tropes and its overarching story isn’t breaking any new ground, but this movie is truly unique and unlike anything else out there.
Rarely have I felt an immediate emotional connection to main characters as soon as the houselights go down and the screen lights up, but I did with Zack. The movie will stick to your ribs and you’ll keep chewing on it for days after it’s over.
I can’t wait to get back into the theater to see it again and watch those I take with me experience it for themselves.
I urge you to head to the theater this weekend and go see “The Peanut Butter Falcon.” This is a movie people need to see.
Check KSL.com tomorrow for a content guide for parents for "The Peanut Butter Falcon."
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” is opening Aug. 9 in limited release at the Megaplex Gateway, Megaplex Jordan Commons and Century 16 in Salt Lake City. It is rated PG-13 for thematic content, language throughout, some violence and smoking.