Recently, there's been a string of unique, above average, out of the ordinary films that have intrigued audiences, such as "The Lobster", "Swiss Army Man", and another new release in "Hunt for the Wilderpeople", and this week, one of those films is "Captain Fantastic". Starring Viggo Mortensen in probably his best role ever ("Lord of the Rings" was always a favorite of mine), along with Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Frank Langella, and a handful of younger, lesser known actors who are quite impressive, this film is a thought-provoking, heartfelt, very enjoyable experience that is great for all audiences.
Mortensen plays Ben Cash, an extremely idealistic father who together with his wife, has decided to raise their six children in the forest away from traditional society. He teaches them to hunt, climb, survive, fight, and other life skills that he believes are important. They're not allowed to use words like "interesting" and have never once had a taste of the real world. When their somewhat troubled mother passes away, her father blames Ben for her mental state and warns him to stay away from the funeral, but the kids convince their dad that they have to say goodbye to their mother. The family ventures into the real world on an adventure that ultimately tests not only the kids, but Ben's ability and authority to take care of them.
Once at the funeral, Ben is given a hard time about the way he is raising his kids. More than a few people believe he's unfit to be a parent and that the kids deserve a stable, safe environment where they can go to school and be normal. While arguing with his in-laws about the kids not ever being able to adapt into society because of the way Ben teaches them, he proves that even his youngest is smarter than her high school aged cousins, but this means little to the extended family, who go as far as to request custody for the kids come to live with them.
While watching the family interact in society after many years in isolation is very amusing at times, it can also be sad and emotional. There are more than a few instances where as a viewer you feel for the kids safety and well-being, as they play with weapons, climb all over the place and attempt certain missions such as rescuing their brother from their grandparent's house, where one of the girls is hurt in the process. It's also sentimental that the kids and Ben have lost their mom and wife, respectively, and it becomes clear that despite the grandparent's wishes for normalcy, their daughter was just as much a freethinker as her husband and kids.
This film reminded me of the other idiosyncratic titles listed above, as well as Zach Braff's "I Wish I Was Here" (2014), which involves another father who is homeschooling his kids and appears to teach them in a slightly different way than normal. Both fathers clearly care deeply about their children but may be a bit misguided at times.
In "Captain Fantastic", Cash is tough, but adored, he's arrogant and pushy, but also loving and caring, and while to someone that doesn't know them, the kids look to be hurting because of their dad, in reality the family is very happy with their way of life, even if Cash eventually sees that there may be a better way of raising them. As mentioned, in addition to the sentimental moments, there is a great deal of humor and fun to be had throughout the film.
If you're looking for a change from the average Hollywood blockbuster, something for the whole family or just a film that is a bit out of the ordinary, than "Captain Fantastic" is for you. It's a comical, eccentric, mostly feel-good family drama that should not be missed.
Written and directed by actor/director Matt Ross, "Captain Fantastic" premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival with great feedback and was screened in a section of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival that is used for originality and different kind of films. The film was released in the U.S. in select theaters on July 8th, 2016 and in additional locations July 15th.
4 out of 5 stars.
"Captain Fantastic" is rated R for language and brief nudity. Running time is 1 hour and 58 minutes.
Directed by Matt Ross
Selig Rating: FULL PRICE
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!