This is a fable centering around a loving patriarch who’s
opted to move his family away from society in the hopes of giving them a
different kind of value system, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC is a hippie fantasy
come to life, and a charming one at that.
Viggo Mortensen as an iconoclast patriarch teaches his kids to be self-sufficient
in nature, as well as fully educated on history, politics, languages,
sciences and more, having educated them all to the point that his
eight-year-old daughter can recite the declaration of independence by
memory while his oldest son has been accepted to Yale, Brown, Harvard,
M.I.T and more. All of the kids possess genius level IQ’s and a distaste
for what they’ve been taught is a fascist system of power. To give you
an idea, instead of Christmas, their big holiday is Noam Chomsky day.
Director-writer Matt Ross
deserves a lot of credit. His follow-up to the low-budget hit "28 Hotel Rooms", CAPTAIN FANTASTIC could well have been an insufferable
Hollywood fantasy. While Mortensen’s patriarch is often too good to be
true, as are the kids, but this fine director has been canny enough to give the
film multiple perspectives. One of the kids convincingly bristles
throughout at their lack of social interaction (they’re so sheltered
none of them know what Star Trek is) and the adversary, his late wife’s
conservative dad (Frank Langella) is portrayed in a three-dimensional way, even if we’re clearly supposed to be on Viggo Mortensen's side throughout.
Viggo Mortensen is ideally cast. He’s always seemed like a man from another
time, and it feels like a role only he could have played. Probably the
reason for this is that he’s just so sincere. Mortensen always seems
like a man with good intentions, and his love for his children is never
anything less than convincing. He also shows a bit of levity here for
the first time in a while, with amusing scenes where he tries to give
his eight-year-old the “birds and the bees” talk or fakes being a
Christian home-schooler to avoid the cops. He’s absolutely likable, even
if for much of the film it seems like he is insane. George McKay is also very good as
Mortensen’s oldest, his father’s right-hand man who’s torn between his
need to be free and experience the world and loyalty to his dad.
Matt Ross has also given CAPTAIN FANTASTIC a really gorgeous look, with
terrific location photography and a real ethereal vibe at times. It’s certainly a big-hearted, often beautiful family film
that really should be seen on the big screen. It’s not perfect (it
could stand to lose a good ten minutes) and the ending is too tidy and
often naive, but it’s also very entertaining and one of the most purely
enjoyable movies of the summer.