SXSW Review: The Pez Outlaw

Year: 2022

Runtime: 75 minutes

Directors:  Amy Bandlien Storkel, Bryan Storkel

By Joan Amenn

There has probably never been a documentary quite like “The Pez Outlaw” (2022). It is uniquely quirky, entertaining, outrageously funny and at times, quite touching. This is also an accurate description of the Outlaw himself, Steve Glew. As a man obsessed, Glew takes us on a wild ride of international intrigue and corporate espionage worthy of his hero Tom Clancy, who is referenced several times in the film.

This is an amazingly constructed story that owes a great deal of its engaging charm to Glew acting out scenes from his nearly unbelievable adventures. Directors Amy Bandlien Storkel and Bryan Storkel let Glew spin his tale in his own way and he is a born storyteller. It would be easy to dismiss him as just blowing smoke if it weren’t for the additional commentary of those whose ire he provoked being included in the film. Also, his family obviously loves him dearly but they do not attempt to gloss over Glew’s mental health issues. This lends a deepened complexity to Glew as more than just a defiant huckster looking to peddle cheap plastic gizmos for as much profit as he can grab.

In “The Prestige” (2006) Christopher Nolan had Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) say about his obsessions, “…. I’m their slave…and one day they’ll chose to destroy me.” At the heart of “The Pez Outlaw” is the love story of Steve and his wife Kathy, who has continually stepped in to guide him from becoming too destructive with his obsessions. That is not to say the Glew family have not experienced extreme highs and lows, but they have remained strong in their caring for each other. Steve’s mission to sell European model Pez dispensers in the US was both the best and worst of ideas but he acknowledges more than once that it was his wife’s devotion that got him through the dark times.

This David versus Goliath story is laugh out loud funny one minute and heartbreakingly tragic the next. You’re never sure where the next bend of the rollercoaster of a plot will lead and that is the fun of it, as the twinkle in Glew’s eyes show. He is just a man who struggled for a long time to find what he could offer to the world and when he found it, it nearly cost him everything he had. For his audacity, courage and sheer sense of fun, the Pez Outlaw is justifiably a legend and no corporate legal department can take that away from him.

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