“CAPTAIN FANTASTIC” My rating: B- (Now showing at the Rio and Tivoli)
118 minutes |MPAA rating: R
There’s something phony…or at least serious muddled…at the heart of “Captain Fantastic.”
Which doesn’t keep it from being intermittently entertaining and even borderline charming.
Matt Ross’ dramedy stars Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash, the hippie-dippie/drill instructor Dad to six kids he’s rearing deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.
A typical day for these youngsters — they range in age from 5 to 17 — consists of rigorous physical exercise, survival training, hand-to-hand combat and some serious hitting the books. (And I do mean books…there’s no Internet or electricity out in the bush.)
They bathe in streams, grow food in a greenhouse and hunt the local wildlife, and at night hold family jam sessions around the campfire (Ben plays a mean guitar, not to mention the bagpipes).
Ben is what you might call a left-wing survivalist. He’s convinced of the immorality and uselessness of most modern society, and has trained his kids to parrot his views. The family doesn’t celebrate Christmas; the big day on their calendar is Noam Chomsky’s birthday, which Ben marks by presenting each of his offspring with their own very wicked-looking hunting knife.
They’re like a military unit, moving in perfect harmony whether running down a deer or shoplifting groceries.
Just because they’re growing up in the boonies doesn’t mean the Cash kids are intellectually deprived. The youngest of them can recite the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, and the 12-year old is reading Middlemarch. The oldest, Bodevan (George MacKay), has a handful of acceptance letters from Ivy League schools; he’s trying to decide when to inform his father of this latest triumph (since it will mean leaving the fold).
Where is Mom, you ask? We never see her — alive, anyway. We learn that she’s been gone for several months for hospital treatment. And the bulk of the film consists of the clan’s road trip to Albuquerque to attend her funeral.
The opening scenes of “Captain Fantastic” are kind of idyllic — if you can ignore the fact that Ben is raising a brood largely unequipped to deal with contemporary society.
But once the family members find themselves dealing with the outside world — in the person of Matt’s sister-in-law (Kathryn Hahn) and her husband (Steve Zahn) and his wife’s very rich, very opinionated, and (one suspects) very Republican father (Frank Langella) — we realize just what fish out of water they are. (more…)