Having already worked together on multiple short films, the collaborative pairing Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz have stepped up for their first feature film. Comedy drama The Peanut Butter Falcon follows Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a youngster with Down Syndrome who is cared for at a retirement home in North Carolina. Frustrated by the day-to-day mundanities of life, he escapes to follow his dream of being a wrestler and meets roguish fisherman Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) who is running away from troubles of his own.
There’s a newly founded unlikely friendship at the plucky heart of this buddy road movie, and the debut directors achieve an enjoyable indie tone. Battling different demons, the narrative cleverly explores quite heavy themes but in a lightweight environment as Zak and Tyler offer each other a helping hand. Once the dynamic between the two protagonists is established, the script struggles to expand on its promising premise, and the script gets corny when clichéd subplots come into play.
We are reminded of Shia LaBeouf’s acting talents and his nuanced performance is propped up by a solid supporting cast, including fun wrestling cameos and a minor but masterful turn from Bruce Dern. More focused on tropes than top ropes, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a sweet wrestling tale that just spreads its sickly sentimental charm a little too thick for my taste.