Sundance Recap: “Captain Fantastic”



Inventive take on the classic fish out of water tale with occasional flashes of brilliance but overly long and tedious. There are so many provocative themes that could’ve been explored more thoroughly here but in the end the film is nothing more than a string of missed opportunities.

Viggo Mortensen is effective as a survivalist dad raising his 6 kids in the wilderness. When a tragedy necessitates their return to civilization, all hell breaks loose. Indie favorites Steve Zahn, Kathryn Hahn, George MacKay and Frank Langella all give effective performances: so effective that I’m sad I didn’t like this movie. The kids are delightful and play their roles with the utmost sincerity. One of the best scenes is when a small child who is educated in the arts (both literary and deadly) matches wits with a pair of her public school educated cousins; you can probably guess what happens.

With some truly memorable moments and rich writing from writer-director Matt Ross, it’s a shame that “Captain Fantastic” isn’t a tighter movie.


Here is another example of a really good movie hiding within a so-so movie. In “Captain Fantastic,” we meet a survivalist family living in the Washington woods. Dad teaches his six kids music, literature, politics, physical fitness, and survival skills and the family seems relatively happy. When a family tragedy occurs, they must leave the safety and serenity of their home, travel south and interact with the rest of the world — which presents a variety of challenges.

Many moments are memorable and work well. But then there are also long stretches of time where virtually nothing happens. It’s these scenes that slow the movie’s pace to a crawl and water down the good content. It’s a shame, because there’s lots to like here. Trimming 30 minutes or so and picking up the pace would help, but in its current state, this movie is hard to recommend.

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