• The Peanut Butter Solution (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: December 31st, 2019.
    Director: Michael Rubbo
    Cast: Mathew Mackay, Siluck Saysanasy, Alison Darcy, Michael Hogan
    Year: 1985
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Peanut Butter Solution – Movie Review:

    A staple of Canadian television in the eighties, Michael Rubbo’s 1985 film The Peanut Butter Solution managed to find a substantial audience outside of its homeland thanks to American cable broadcasts and a pretty wide VHS release (New Line Cinema distributed this one stateside). Regardless of when or where you saw it, however, if you were a kid when you watched this one for the first time, it almost certainly left a mark.

    The second in the twelve film Tales For All film series that came out of Quebec courtesy of producer Rock Demers, the film introduces us to a kid named Mike (Mathew Mackay) who lives with his kindly painter father Billy (Michael Hogan of Battlestar Galactia and more importantly The Littlest Hobo) and weird sister Suzie (as Alison Darcy as Alison Podbrey). They seem to have a pretty solid family unit, and their home seems warm and full of love.

    Before school one day, Mike learns that a homeless couple he had an affinity for possible died in a fire that broke out in the abandoned home they were squatting in. In school, he’s bitched out by his strangely flamboyant art teacher ‘The Signor’ (Michel Maillot, the ‘mean man’ from another oddball Canadian kids film, Jacob Two-Two Meets The Hooded Fang) for drawing a hot dog. When class finishes up, he and his best friend Conrad (Siluck Saysanasy), Connie to his closest pals, decide to go investigate. Mike makes his way up through one of the windows, screams in fear and then comes flying back down. He whacks his heads and Connie drags his unconscious ass back home.

    The next morning, Mike wakes up to find he’s completely bald. The scare he got the day before caused all of his hair to find out and now he hates his life and everyone in it, refusing to leave the house. His dad scores him a pretty sweet wig, which helps for a bit, until it falls off during soccer practice and he’s made fun of. Mike’s luck changes in the middle of the night when a craving for a midnight snack brings him to the kitchen where the ghosts of his homeless pals (Helen Hughes of The Littlest goddamn Hobo and Grittifh Brewer also of Jacob Two-Two) relay to him the secret to a full head of thick, luxurious hair. It involves peanut but and some other weird ingredients and after assembling this concoction and going to bed, Mike wakes up the next morning with some peach fuzz atop his dome. A few hours later and Mike’s got a pretty sizable coiffure going on and a few hours after that, his hair is down to his ankles. Connie, handy with a pair of scissors, helps when he can but Mike’s hair won’t stop growing uncontrollably and eventually he’s kicked out of school for distracting the other students!

    As if Mike’s luck couldn’t get any worse, he’s then, along with some other kids, abducted – his hair used to make paintbrushes! Connie and Suzy put on their detective hats to track the poor kid down, come across the brushes and put two and two together to figure out who snatched Mike and then, more importantly, how to get him back!

    What a weird ass movie. It’s got a message of sorts that we won’t spoil here (because to do so would require divulging details about the culprit) but the message doesn’t really matter. What matters is the film’s more psychotronic aspects. Strange effects with loads and loads of hair? What-the-fuckity paintings that might be real? Homeless ghosts? The guy who played Stasiuk in Cronenberg’s Rabid? Two Céline Dion tracks on the soundtrack? A wacky Asian sidekick in a Fedora? Kids running around dangerous abandoned buildings while their father paints undeniably awkward looking works of art? A mean teacher named The Signor who doesn’t seem to actually teach kids anything? A protagonist who you can’t help but assume is dying of cancer that later turns into Cousin It? Skippy product placement? It’s all here and more.

    While the film doesn’t specifically take place in Canada, it definitely takes place in Canada. There’s no hiding the accents on the actors, nor should there be, because being Canadian is, for the time being at least, a matter of pride. There’s stronger beer and nationally legal weed north of the border after all. Nobody in Canada has to drive three states over to get pot if they want it, they can just order it through the mail. And yet, weed wasn’t legal in Canada in 1985 and The Peanut Butter Solution got made anyway! There’s cast members from The Littlest Hobo all over this one and performers recognizable from other uniquely Canadian productions like Degrassi Junior High and early Cronenberg movies trotting about as well. These are all good things.

    The effects might be hokey but that adds to the movie’s distinctly retro charm. They really do not make kids’ movies like this anymore. There’s an element of danger to parts of the film, particularly when Mike and Connie go all ‘urbex’ and check out the abandoned house or when Connie and Suzy start trailing the one responsible for Mike’s abduction. The production values are decent enough. Michael Rubbo keeps the movie interesting. Even when there isn’t action or suspense there’s enough going on with Mike and his family that paying attention is never a chore. Performances are… hokey… but in all the right ways. Siluck Saysanasy frequently steals scenes from everyone around him while Alison Darcy, likable as the well-meaning sister, delivers acting that is just awkward enough to stand out. Mathew Mackay is fine in the lead. Mike is whiny for much of the movie, but then, his hair fell out and he gets kidnapped, so his life sucks and you can’t fault him for feeling a little down. Michel Maillot as The Signor is also pretty damn memorable, turning in a performance as over the top as his character.

    Note that Severin presents both the standard version of the film as well as the extended U.S. theatrical release version on this release. There isn’t a huge difference between the two versions, the longer cut basically just including some lengthier scenes of dialogue, but it’s nice to have them both here.

    The Peanut Butter Solution – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings both versions of The Peanut Butter Solution to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc and looking pretty solid. Some minor print damage can be spotted throughout but overall the image is in pretty nice shape, the extended version looking a little rougher than the regular version but still very watchable. Colors look quite good throughout and we get nice black levels too. Detail is pretty solid and we get nice depth and texture. Some minor compression artifacts pop up now and then but there are no problems with noise reduction or edge enhancement to note.

    DTS-HD Mono tracks are provided for both versions in English and the audio quality here is fine. Levels are properly balanced, the score sounds fine and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. The music in this movie is kind of great and it’s nice to have it in lossless.

    Extra features start off with an audio commentary featuring Producer Rock Demers and Actor Mathew Mackay, moderated by Filmmaker Ara Ball. It’s a pretty interesting talk that fills in a lot of the blanks that people are going to have about how and why this movie exists the way that it does. They cover working with the child actors, the casting of the film, some of the effects work, the locations, where they came up with the ideas for some of the more unusual set pieces included in the film, and lots more. It’s a very active and interesting track and definitely worth checking out if you want to be completely schooled on the ‘who/what/where/when and especially why’ of the film’s history.

    From there, we get a few featurettes, the first of which is Human Beings Are the Same All Over, which is an interview with Demers. Here, over the span of twenty-three-minutes, he speaks about how he got into the film industry, his background, early jobs, connections that he made and then of course his work on this film. Conrad's Peanut Butter Solution is an interview with Siluck Saysanasy, who obviously played Conrad. It’s a quick six-minute talk about getting the part in the film, his thoughts on the picture, what it was like working on the movie and then going on to star in the never-ending Canadian teen drama series Degrassi Junior High. The third and final featurette is Tales For All, a thirteen-minute piece where Paul Corupe of Canuxploitation.com and Rock Demers talk up the series of twelve kids films that Demers produced in Quebec, complete with some great clips from a few of the productions that were the product of the run.

    Rounding things out, we get Canadian and U.S. trailers for the feature, menus and chapter selection options.

    The Peanut Butter Solution – The Final Word:

    The Peanut Butter Solution is absolutely as weird as it sounds, a cinematic oddity from a bygone era that still retains its screwy charm and its power to entertain and confuse! It’s a uniquely Canadian picture but one that should absolutely appeal to anyone who doesn’t necessarily abide in the Great White North. Severin’s Blu-ray release is good one, offering two cuts of the movie and a nice selection of extras and presenting the film in very nice shape. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized The Peanut Butter Solution Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      "It definitely takes place in Canada."

      That sums up this review.