Captain Fantastic (2016) Review

Director: Matt Ross

Run Time: 118 minutes

Cast: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Steve Zahn, Frank Langella, et al…

Plot (taken from IMDb): In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.

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Captain Fantastic represents, in my opinion, Viggo Mortensen’s best film since The Return of the King. He delivers a powerful, emotionally charged performance in this off-beat comedy drama about a family of outsiders who struggle to enter into the real world following the death of their mother. While Mortensen’s performance is excellent, the film surrounding him isn’t quite funny enough.

Matt Ross’s latest straddles the line between drama and comedy a little too often. It’s a quirky comedy, but the sort of humour on offer feels like a subtler version of Little Miss Sunshine. This is a film that’s often slightly humorous, but will not leave you in hysterics all too much. The film’s funniest scenes all involve the family out in the real world, using their smarts to surprise and steal from the oppressive government their dad teaches them about all the time. This is a family that rejects politics, religion and the traditional American way of life – a form of hippies if you will. While Captain Fantastic doesn’t tend to wander into the realm of the wickedly funny, it never needs to.

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The straddling between emotional scenes and comedy tends to work pretty well, thanks to the softly entertaining plot and solid character relationships. We see the family travel across the USA in their old school bus in order to attend the funeral of their sadly recently deceased mother. Along the journey you’ll be brisked across stunning locations and little America alike. It’s nice to see areas of the States that you wouldn’t typically see in a Hollywood production. Captain Fantastic is a pleasant watch from start to finish despite its emotionally charged plot and dark subject matter.

We see Ben’s (Viggo Mortensen) family struggle to adapt to the real world on their whistle-stop tour of the USA, but despite all the hardships, they always seem to bounce back as a strong family unit. There’s a lot to take in for the six children who haven’t seen the outside world bar a couple of fleeting visits to a relatively local post office. It takes its toll on all of the family members, but Ben is stubborn in his knowledge that his way of life is the best. Who knows, though? Maybe the family does have a lot to learn about the outside world that their meticulously studied books doesn’t tell them. It’s interesting (a term hated by Ben) to see what the family takes in and blocks out in the world and can be funny or touching.

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Bodevan (George MacKay) receives a lot of attention in the film. As the oldest member of the six children, he starts to discover girls and has aspirations of university and travel. MacKay delivers a great performance, and along with Mortensen steals the show from the rest of the cast. I cannot say enough about the interactions with the family and the outside world. Matt Ross delivered scene after scene of great entertainment. Captain Fantastic isn’t just great scene after great scene though, it all flows together rather well. It’s just a shame that it wasn’t funnier. If the script was a little stronger with laughs, Captain Fantastic could have been truly fantastic.


An entertaining, quirky comedy that could be even better if it were funnier.


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