Warning: Spoilers Possibly Ahead!
Starring: Mathew Mackay, Siluck Saysanasy, Michael Hogan, Michel Millot
Writers: Vojtech Jasny, Andree Pelletier, Louise Pelletier, Michael Rubbo
Director: Michael Rubbo
Run-time: 94 minutes
The Peanut Butter Solution is possibly one of the craziest and scariest kids movies I remember watching growing up in the 90′s. Originally a favorite of my sister, her taped from TV copy made it to my collection as she became preoccupied with Beverly Hills 90210 and when I had time between wrestling shows (both televised and between my action figures), I would pop it in. I remember liking it as a kid, and as I got older, I remembered it with reverence, regularly singing its praises to my friends in the cafeteria (coincidentally, knowing this movie did not get me laid in high school…*sigh*). Still, it had been awhile since I had seen it and since I needed a movie to discuss this month for the column, I decided to see what my 23 year old mind thinks, and not only is it as weird as it was when I was a kid…I think it may have gotten weirder with age.
This lovely piece of Canadian storytelling stars Mathew Mackay as Michael, an 11 year old boy who lives with his eccentric artist father Billy (Michael Hogan) and his older sister Suzie (Alison Darcy). His mother is away in Australia dealing with a death in her family and with his dad always upstairs painting and his sister trying to take over the motherly duties of the house, he is having a hard time adjusting. On the way home from school one day, he and his best friend Connie (Siluck Saysanasy, who played Yick Yu on Degrassi Junior High) stop by the remains of an abandoned house that had went up in flames (with people inside! A no no in 2010 children’s media!) the night before. Being curious boys, Michael climbs up the wreckage to have a peak inside. Once inside, Michael sees something off-screen and shrieks in terror, his hair looking like he just got electrocuted, and falls out of the building unconscious.
Everything seems to be normal enough when he wakes up, but a day later, all of his hair falls out, causing him to go completely bald. He tries a wig after some initial self-loathing (and drum playing), but when it is ripped off of his head during a soccer game (and he is chased all the way back to his house by the meanest soccer team EVER), Michael gives up hope of ever having hair again. That night, when he sneaks downstairs to give his mom a call, he hears a commotion in the kitchen and comes into the presence of an elderly homeless wino ghost couple, who died in the blaze. The female, Mary (Helen Hughes) decides to give him a recipe made up of ingredients such as rotten eggs, three dead flies, peanut butter, and other such random things. When combined, however, it allows the hair to grow back, but Mary gives him a warning: if he uses too much peanut butter (solution), the consequences will be dire. Do you hear me? DIRE!
The ghosts do not take into account that he is an 11 year old boy and thereby doesn’t listen though, and Michael proceeds to up the peanut butter (solution) content to make it more sticky and less drippy. Low and behold, the crazy recipe actually WORKS and Michael begins growing hair…a lot of hair. What starts as stubble, turns into a full head in a span of three minutes, and then even longer as the day wanes on. It turns out that adding too much peanut butter causes the stuff to magnify the growing process. What was a blessing becomes a curse, as Connie and company must keep cutting his hair to avoid him being engulfed Cousin-It style.
So this is where you go “well that’s interesting, but where does it go exactly? Does he get the ghosts to help him? Are the ghosts actually evil? Was Michael a ghost the whole time and Hayley Joel Osmet was the only one who could see him?” Well, here’s where things get interesting; Michael gets kidnapped by a crazy art professor known as The Signor (Michel Millot), who used to be Michael’s art teacher before being fired on the grounds creepiness. The Signor has some devilish plans of his own for Michael; after kidnapping a whole litter of other precious Canadian kids, he sets up a sweat shop (complete with uniforms?!?) to turn Michael’s crazy hair INTO PAINTBRUSHES. Why is Michael’s hair paintbrush material and yours isn’t? Because since Michael’s hair was created from a dead wino’s random recipe, it has the magical power to make living paintings! If you use the Signor paintbrush, you don’t even need to brush! Just flick the paint onto a totally not green screen and your idea becomes an actual picture that is not only living, but you can go inside and hang out in!
Obviously Connie and Suzie are not cool with this, and they attempt to find him and free him, and to defeat the child snatching imagination-hating Signor once and for all! FOR FREEEEEDOM!
To say The Peanut Butter Solution is a complete mindwarp is putting it mildly; this movie makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. How does hair make living paintings? Where did the Signor get the equipment and uniforms to run an illegal sweatshop? How come Connie can yell at his hair to stop growing (he puts the stuff on his pubes), but Michael is powerless? What is “The Fright” and why is it being treated as a legitimate medical ailment? All these questions go unanswered and it was fine when I was a child (I’d accept anything was fact), but now it’s mind-blowing. The whole thing is an incomprehensible mess turned LSD trip that is freaky and terrifying…AND I’M 23 YEARS OLD!
The scariness all lies in The Signor. He is eccentric sure, but the guy looks like the evil grandfather of Jim Varney and I have no idea why ANYONE would hire him to do ANYTHING other than serial killing. Check it out:
Would you hire that man to teach your ELEVEN YEAR OLD KIDS anything? I didn’t think so. He speaks with a nutty French accent and his only friend is a dog named Jim (if I can invoke a classic Dirty Work quote: “he’s totally bangin’ that dog”). He’s the villain initially because he doesn’t allow imagination in his art class; he wants the kids to draw what they see as opposed to think for themselves and draw what they feel (the opposite of true art I would think). That’s totally evil in and of itself, and he disappears for about twenty minutes in the movie until HE RANDOMLY DECIDES TO KIDNAP KIDS AND MAKE PAINTBRUSHES. That ups his creepy factor to a whole new level; sure, he sucks for hating imagination, but now he’s evil enough to make kids manufacture paintbrushes out of hair for his financial benefit? Send this guy to Sing Sing already. I used to fear this guy as a kid, and if I saw him walking the streets now, I’d probably still punch him in the face and yell “NO SWEATSHOP FOR ME YOU MOTHER-”.
The Peanut Butter Solution is a crazy kids movie that makes little to no sense, has some pretty bad acting, cheap effects, and would probably scare the hell out of the uber PC children we have today. Still, it’s enjoyable to watch for being as weird as it is, and for being as creative as it is; I wouldn’t have dreamed up half the stuff they come up with here even if I had all the LSD in the world (side note: anyone got any?). I still hold this movie in high esteem and when a woman is unfortunate enough to bear my children, I’m definitely showing them this. The Signor must live on as the scariest children’s movie villain EVER.
Has anyone else seen this? Chime in! I double dog dare you.