Director/Screenplay – Michael Rubbo, Producers – Rock Demers & Nicole Robert, Photography – Thomas Vamos, Music – Lewis Furey, Magic Paintings Animation – Les Productions Pascal Blais, Hair Special Effects – Roger Cantin, Art Direction – Vianney Gauthier. Production Company – Les Productions La Fete/Telefilm Canada/Societe Generale du Cinema du Quebec/Societe Radio-Canada CFCF
Matthew Mackay (Michael Baskin), Siluk Saysanasy (Connie), Alison Podbrey (Suzie Baskin), Michel Maillot (The Signor), Michael Hogan (Billy Baskin)
Young Michael Baskin’s mother is away in Australia and the rest of the family are poor because his father cannot sell any of his paintings. Michael and his best friend Connie venture into an old abandoned house where Michael sees something so frightening that he collapses. When he wakes in the morning, Michael finds that all his hair has fallen out – a condition known as Hair-’em Scarem that doctors attribute to his fright. Michael is given a wig but this only makes him a laughing stock at school. Two ghostly winos appear and give Michael a recipe to make his hair grow back. One of the ingredients is peanut butter. However, in his eagerness, Michael applies too much peanut butter and this causes his hair to grow at an uncontrollable rate. Michael is then kidnapped by his disgraced former art teacher The Signor and tied up in a warehouse where The Signor’s child slaves cut Michael’s hair as it grows in order to make magic paintbrushes.
The Peanut Butter Solution was one of a series of children’s films produced by the Quebec-based company Les Productions La Fete and producer Rock Demers. Demers and sometimes La Fete were also responsible for a handful of obscure low-budget Canadian children’s films throughout the late 80s/early 90s, including The Dog That Stopped the War (1984), The Tadpole and the Whale (1987), Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller (1988), Bye Bye Red Riding Hood (1989), The Case of the Witch Who Wasn’t (1990) and The Flying Sneaker (1990), among others.
The Peanut Butter Solution zigzags its way through some wacky plot elements – including the appearance of ghostly derelicts, a kid affected by psychosomatic baldness, old housewife remedies afforded by the ghosts that unexpectedly produce rabid hirsuteness due to the kid being too liberal with the titular ingredient, a mad former art teacher who has abducted children as his slaves and keeps the young hero imprisoned on a yoghurt diet cutting his hair as it grows so that he can sell it as paintbrushes, paintings that magically become three-dimensional doorways. (There is an hilarious less-than-childlike scene where young hero Matthew Mackay applies the solution Down Below and ends up with pubic hair that grows down out the cuff of his pants leg). Imagine a weird low-budget variant on The Boy with Green Hair (1948) and the Dr Seuss film The 5000 Fingers of Dr T (1953). Indeed, you cannot help but think that Japanese director Shion Sono was inspired to conduct a horror version of the film with his later Exte: Hair Extensions (2007).
You feel with this stew of elements the film has that the results should have been as something as wacky and demented as psychedelic children’s classics like Pufnstuf (1970) or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). The truth is that The Peanut Butter Solution is not particularly well made. The low budget and Michael Rubbo’s unexceptional direction never lets any of this bizarreness fly very far. The upshot is of a film indulging in some peculiar contortions but not amounting to much more than a puzzled shrug of the shoulders. Looking at other web reviews, some people have strange memories of The Peanut Butter Solution from growing up in the 1980s but the film sounds much more wacky in description than the pedestrian way it is directed on screen.
Lead actor Matthew Mackay is blank but Siluk Saysanasy and, in particular, Alison Podbrey give lively performances that counter the usual overacting excess of the adults. The results are occasionally cute but slight. The film seems to skip along in an oddly non-sequitir way that strikes an oddly ungainly balance between absurdism and realism. Not much time is given over to the plot – for instance, the hero is kidnapped but so little focus is placed on the efforts to find him, leaving the impression that nobody seems to care about a kid that has gone missing.
The majority of the cast have failed to go onto to anything that was ever seen beyond Canadian shores. The one exception was Michael Hogan, who plays the hero’s father, who went onto genre renown as Colonel Tigh on tv’s Battlestar Galactica (2003-9). The soundtrack also features a song from no less than Titanic (1997) warbler Celine Dion.
Full film available online here:-