“The Peanut Butter Falcon” breaks the mold


Ysabela Golden, Laker Life Editor

If you walked away from reading “Huckleberry Finn” in 10th grade thinking there should have been more professional wrestling, wished “Rocky” was less running up stairs and more throwing trees over your head or just really love heartfelt stories of friends overcoming adversity to become a family, Armory Films may have released the perfect movie for your highly-specific interests.

“The Peanut Butter Falcon” follows a trio of social misfits traveling through the deep south — Zak, a 20-year-old ward of the state with Down syndrome who breaks out of his ill-placed retirement home to pursue his dream of becoming a professional wrestler; Tyler, a vagabond arsonist with a troubled past who is the only person under 70 to want to move to Florida; and Eleanor, a rich widow with too much free time and not enough patience for Zak and Tyler’s shenanigans. 

Together, the three lead viewers through a high-stakes but cathartically-hilarious journey towards self-acceptance and the knowledge that friends really are the family you get to choose.

The chemistry between the cast is a joy to watch. Viewers may spend the two-hour runtime tensing up in expectation for the worst thing that could happen, but “The Peanut Butter Falcon” sails around gut-punching cliches and dramatic misunderstandings with a cast of characters who are just too ride or die for each other to fall for the usual Oscar-bait story beats.   

In a time when representation in media is a subject of widespread critical analysis, “The Peanut Butter Falcon” comes through with its star Zack Gottsagen, whose charismatic performance is the center of the movie. His character isn’t just a sidekick or cheerleader to his co-stars Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Fanning, but a driving force of the plot with his own character development and accomplishments.

The fact that the movie was produced by Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver and Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation Michelle Sie Whitten was no doubt related to its success in creating a respectful and accurate portrayal of the condition.

Ultimately, “The Peanut Butter Falcon” is an action-packed, emotional comedy that goes to dark places, but brings the audience back around to the other side. Much like the elderly residents of the retirement home who help Zak escape through feats of engineering and contrived medical emergencies, viewers can’t help becoming attached to his character and cheering him on throughout his journey. This is a cast of characters that could easily make you cry if they felt like it, but instead decide to let you off easy with a roller coaster of a good time.