The writing/directing tandem of Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz fashion an old buddy/road picture with a certain disarming charm that has elements of Rain Man and the most recent Matthew McConaughey-starrer Mud. Perhaps expressed in broader terms with less emotional nuance.
The Peanut Butter Falcon (which signifies an alter ego) stars Shia LeBeouf, Dakota Johnson (Bad Time at the El Royale), and newcomer Zack Gottsagen has the imprint also of a Huckleberry Fin in using unlike characters and varying subjects like professional wrestling and crab fishing. The initial setting is an assisted living facility in North Carolina before its Outer Banks. Gottsagen (who has Down’s Syndrome along with his character) is Zak nary any relatives and a ward of the state. An irascible former engineer Carl (Bruce Dern) is his roommate and Johnson’s attending social worker Eleanor is the only one there near to his age.
The wandering rhythms of the tale (which include a raft ride) are lathered up in Zak being on the lam from the place in order to locate his idol, a pro-wrestler known as the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). Eleanor is tasked by the nursing home to get to him before law enforcement does.
LeBeouf, has had issues off screen, but excels again in another modestly produced effort as crestfallen crab fisherman Tyler whose poachings get him into trouble with Duncan (John Hawkes). The connection between Tyler and Zak forms the essence of two lost souls when the former finds the latter as a stowaway when his is on the run having set alight his traps also from menacing minion Ratboy (hip-hopper Yelawolf) . A hesitancy gives way to sharing in life’s experiences/aspirations (like a bottle of whiskey or a wrestling camp) as Eleanor (with her own issues) ends up a grudging, if nonplussed companion.
While not really the same as Twain’s Huck and Jim, a hirsute LeBeouf and a gregarious Gottsagen make for a likable, noteworthy pair, even Johnson (gradually leaving Anastasia Steele behind her) has tender moments opposite Gottsgen, though, less so with LeBeouf as a romantic strand is a tad ambiguous reflecting more lapses/credibility in narrative scaling. But it does stir the melting, and, a nice country/rock twang on the soundtrack to go with a few striking seaside vistas to boot.