This one hit close to home.
I don't want to make myself a part of the story, but if you're here reading this, there's a good chance you know what I do for a living -- I cover pro wrestling. Some of you know that my wife will be graduating (with honors!) soon to pursue a career in special education. Peanut Butter Falcon was a beautiful marriage of the two, and perhaps my favorite movie of 2019.
Quite honestly, I'm not big into movies about wrestling, MMA or boxing. They're usually really cliche and rinse and repeat. I don't need to see another movie where the love interest begs an athlete to give up the sport or performance they love, and yadda yadda. Been there, done that. This isn't that.
I also formerly had a soft spot for Shia LeBouf. I thought he was the funniest kid in the world on Even Stevens, really enjoyed some of his other films, and was happy to see him return to prominence in recent years, specifically with a project that would make an impact. This was that.
Peanut Butter Falcon follows Zak, portrayed by Zack Gottsagen, a young man with down syndrome and resident of a nursing home. After breaking free of the nursing home, he pursues his dream of training to be a professional wrestler, motivated by decades-old video cassettes of the Salt Water Redneck -- played by the familiar face of Thomas Haden Church. Along the way, Shia LeBouf's Tyler encounters him along for the ride.
The film tugs on the heartstrings without being overtly cruel in the ways that you'd expect, at least to an extreme degree. It highlights the hardships that anyone with down syndrome could and would face, especially geographically in the southeast.
Thomas Haden Church and LeBouf are far from the only familiar faces you'll see. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Mick Foley, Jon Bernthal (of the Punisher, Wolf of Wall Street and The Walking Dead), Bruce Dern, John Hawkes Dakota Johnson and Yelawolf. The cast if fresh, but familiar, mixing established actors with real names in the professional wrestling industry. It serves as a breakout performance for Gottsagen. High profile, starring roles are few and far between for those with down syndrome, and to say that he rocked it would be a massive understatement.
Peanut Butter Falcon plays on your emotions (if you have a heart) in all the right ways. The development of Tyler as a character is exceptional, and he's easy to root for while still wondering his true motivations. The establishment of Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) as a saintly-caretaker is quick and to the point, and you don't have to question why she would care about Zak. It's just in here nature.
Mick Foley and Jake "The Snake" Roberts also shine in their roles, and who knows these roles as well as those two guys? They're involved in the only actual pro wrestling scene in the movie, but wrestling fan or not, they'll likely stand out to you.
The film performed well at the box office, hitting over $20 million against a $6.2 million budget. With the DVD and blu-ray dropping, I fully expect this to become a cult classic film, and it's a must watch. Perhaps my favorite movie of 2019.
SRS' Score: 9/10
Disclosure: Fightful was provided with a review copy of Peanut Butter Falcon.