Hollywood seems to be only interested in the blockbuster.
This did not just start. For years now, the only thing that studios want to present are movies that will make hundreds of millions of dollars.
These event movies place the studios in a place where they are not quick to green light small films – movies that are not going to make huge amounts of money but have stories that tug at the heartstrings.
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” is one of those movies. It is an outlier in a time when the only thing that shows up at the theater is some comic-book movie with loads of CGI and action.
The story focuses on two characters. There is Zak (Zack Gottsagen), who has Down syndrome and is living in an assisted living home with people old enough to be his grandparents. The state placed him there after his family abandoned him.
Then we have Tyler (Shia LeBeouf). He is a young man living hand to mouth. He lives on the coast and makes money by stealing from crab pots. This causes him to get beaten up by Duncan (John Hawkes) and his partner, Ratboy (Yelawolf).
Tyler decides to get payback by burning up Duncan’s crab pots. Then he goes on the lam.
While this is going on, Zak is trying to escape the assisted living home. He tries once and fails. Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), his caseworker, tells him he cannot leave and has bars placed upon his window.
Zak wants to leave to find the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). Zak has an old VHS tape he plays constantly with the Salt Water Redneck, a pro wrestler speaking about his wrestling school.
Zak wants to get out of the assisted living home to go to this school. With the aid of Carl (Bruce Dern), Zak’s roommate, the bars get pulled back just enough to slip Zak out. But there is a huge problem: Zak had to strip down to his underwear to get out.
It is on the journey from their pasts that Zak and Tyler meet up. Neither has any money. All they have is a dream.
We learn Tyler is in grief. His brother was killed, and Tyler depended upon him mightily.
Along the way, we get a story about two fish out of water who are on the journey to a future that they believe will make everything right.
These two men each come to be for the other what is lacking in the other’s life. Neither of them has family. They find family in each other.
I went to see this movie on a Friday when there was nothing else playing that I wanted to see. Knowing nothing about it, I went in with no expectations.
As the story played out, I thought about those in our culture, like Zak and Tyler, who have no one. I watched as they drifted toward the something that they felt would make everything better for them.
My thoughts turned to those of us in the church.
We tend not to have much time for the Zaks and Tylers of our day. They offer more challenges to us than we want to face.
But as the movie went on, I saw a compelling story of how one finds family and how all people need family. Is that not what church is to be?
I remember singing Bill Gaither’s “Family of God.” We sang it as a way of declaring that we held ourselves to be just that – a family.
Zak and Tyler needed family. Are we willing to be family to the Zaks and Tylers in our community?
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language
Writers and directors: Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz
Cast: Shia LeBeouf (Tyler), Dakota Johnson (Eleanor), Zack Gottsagen (Zak), John Hawkes (Duncan), Thomas Haden Church (The Salt Water Redneck), Bruce Dern (Carl), Yelawolf (Ratboy).
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.