The Peanut Butter Solution.
(1985) directed by Michael Rubbo.
Filmed in Canada, with music by Celine Dion.



Peanut butter is the secret ingredient for magic potions made by two 'friendly' ghosts. Eleven-year-old Michael loses all of his hair when he gets a 'fright' and uses the potion to get his hair back, but too much peanut butter causes things to get a bit 'hairy'.
www.imdb.com

Sounds like an interesting premise for a kid's movie, doesn't it? Ghosts and magic potions, a winning formula (just ask J.K. Rowling). I know that it hooked me the first (and only time) I saw this movie as a kid. It hooked me so much that I still remembered it 13 years later, more than half my lifetime ago.

I was reminded of this movie when I bumped into a friend of mine a few weeks ago. We got to talking about films we liked as kids. She said, "You know one movie that I haven't seen in years, and one you should definitely watch, is the Peanut Butter Solution."
"The Peanut Butter Solution?" I asked, having never known the title of the greatest movie of my childhood.
"It's about this kid who climbs into a haunted house and gets so scared that his hair falls out. Then he meets some ghosts..."
"and they give him a magic formula to grow his hair back?" I answered, now excited.
"Ohmygod! You've seen it too?"
We then described everything we remembered about it, piecing together the plot the best we could. It went something like this:

A boy visits a haunted house and when he looks inside he sees something that scares him so much his hair falls out. He refuses to go to school because he’s embarrassed. Some ghosts give him the recipe for a magical potion that will regrow hair. The only catch is that Peanut Butter is the most powerful ingredient, if you put too much into the potion horrible things will happen. Of course the kid adds too much so instead of growing his hair back at a normal rate it starts to grow like a foot an hour. The kid gets kidnapped by some guy who uses his hair to make magical paint brushes. Then the kid is saved. The End.

I was inspired after our meeting. I made a crusade of it. I searched the video stores and I checked the internet. I found a copy on eBay and for the last week I've been anxiously awaiting its arrival. It showed up in my mailbox today.

This was history baby! I was reliving my past. But within a few minutes of watching it I realized that as a child I must have had less than discerning tastes. The acting was pitiful, and the plot was confusing. This movie is all over the board (kind of like this node). There is so much going on, so many plot points that are never resolved or simply forgotten.

Cast:
The main characters are Michael, the kid who loses his hair; his artist father and sister; his friend Connie; and their scary art teacher, ‘The Signor.’ Michael whines a lot, first he’s bald, then his wig falls off and people laugh, then he has too much hair - it’s a perpetual cry fest. His friend Connie is supportive throughout but the actor is hard to understand. I had to rewind it a few times to get what he said, and still didn’t understand him. The Signor has a heavy French accent but is easier to understand than Connie. In a wild plot twist the Signor has two brothers who figure prominently into this movie: the doctor who examines Michael after his hair falls out (their family doctor), and the art dealer who buys Michael’s father’s paintings. Can you say ‘Coincidence?’

Plot:
Where to start? The movie goes mostly as my friend and I remembered it. We had forgotten some scenes but we had the flow down pretty well.

After rewatching it there were quite a few scenes that didn't make sense or seemed out of place for this story. The ghosts for instance. The movie kind of explains why the ghosts might just magically appear in Michael's kitchen, and how they happen to have a formula that regrow's hair, but it seems farfetched. Even for this movie.

Another scene that just seems tacked in there as filler is when Michael gets his wig. First off, Michael hates being bald. I guess when this movie came out people probably didn’t shave their head very much. Especially in Canada. To cheer him up, his dad and sister get him a wig. Michael's excited about his new hair and then goes to the soccer game that he had planned on skipping. Michael is good at soccer and scores two goals before the bully on the other team gets mad. Connie tries to warn him but as Michael is going in for his third goal the bully knocks him down and starts a fight. The two kids really get into it (where are the parents, the refs?) and the bully pulls his wig off during the tussle. Michael freezes there for a moment, glue still stuck to his scalp. Then he runs away with the opposing team chasing him and chanting some sort of taunt they apparently came up with on the spot. You can’t really understand it, but it seems to rhyme. Why is this scene shown? It has no purpose, it changes nothing. Michael just cries more.

My favorite unresolved plot point that is Connie's experience with the hair growing formula. In the bathroom, after Michael’s hair starts growing back almost instantaneously, Connie asks Michael to fess up, what was his secret? Michael holds out the jar with the green sludge inside. Connie takes it and tries to push Michael out the door. Michael asks 'why'? All Connie can say is that he wants to grow some hair, you know, and he points south. Michael busts out laughing and leaves the bathroom. Needless to say, soon Connie has a problem. The hair starts growing down out of his pant legs. That night he can't sleep, it's itchy. It's growing so fast you can see it move. While lying in bed Connie throws back his covers and yells at it to stop. Guess what? It does. That's the end of it. They never mention it again, Connie's problems stop while Michael's hair still grows by the foot. Connie should have the same hair-growing problem, with 6 feet of hair dragging behind him while he walks. Why doesn't Connie yell at Michael's hair to stop? And why is this kind of stuff in a kid's movie?

And finally, behold, the money shot. The scene that defines "The Peanut Butter Solution."

First off, if you've never seen this movie you can't understand how bad the acting is throughout. But this scene takes the cake. The actor playing Michael sounds like he's reading this dialogue off of a cue card, with the inflections in his voice sounding completely unrealistic. I was reminded of Christopher Walken (and not in a good way).

I'll set the scene for you. Michael's friend Connie sits behind him in class, trying to quietly snip his hair. The math teacher has had enough, he stops doing long division on the board. He turns to face Michael, towering over him. Michael's hair is 4 feet long and billowing around his head.

"Ok, down to Ms. Prume, both of you." The teacher says, pointing to the door.

Michael looks back defiantly, or he looks constipated, with this kid's acting who can tell?

My transcription, hopefully there are no errors

"Sir, for two weeks now I've been bald. We did everything to get my hair back, nothing worked. At last I tried this extremely dangerous mixture, it worked, but now my hair won't stop. My only chance is for this guy (motions over his shoulder to Connie) to keep on cutting."

There is a dramatic pause.

"Please let me stay, I want to be educated."

The class bursts into a completely unrehearsed, long and believable round of applause (sarcasm).

"Not just hairy." More applause.

The teacher yells over the din - "Quiet!" And points to the door, "Out!"

You may be confused by the "Not just hairy." I was too. In fact I still am. The applause kills the coherency of that thought. He wants to be educated - not just hairy, let the boy live his life damn it!


After he is kicked out of school Michael is kidnapped. Through an unbelievable series of events his friend Connie finds him and rescues him. Overall I felt that it was more lazy storytelling than creativity. What a let down. I was sad when 'The Peanut Butter Solution' ended (and it wasn't because the movie was done), how the mighty had fallen in my mind.

Final Review:
This movie's main claim to fame is that it features early songs by Celine Dion. Overall, I think it is worth watching. Once. There are plenty of unintentional laughs, and the plot itself is a joke. But don't buy it.


Sources:
www.imdb.com
transcripts from the movie

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