The trailer for Captain Fantastic is a curious mish-mash of ideas and tones. It seems to simultaneously be a story of grief, a fish-out-of-water comedy, and an evaluation of parenting that hopefully will mine deeper ideological conflicts than whether to use your hands to kill the chicken you’re serving for dinner or buy a rotisserie bird at the store.
Viggo Mortensen stars as a father who’s opted to raise his six kids in the Pacific Northwest wilderness, far away from the corruption of society. When his bipolar wife commits suicide while away from home, he and his children embark on a road trip to her funeral—the children’s first experience with the outside world. There are a few formulaic jokes here, such as the kids learning about soda and the eldest son proposing to a young woman after one make-out session. The drama re-emerges when the deceased wife’s father (Frank Langella) declares his intention to seek custody of the children, telling Mortensen that the life he’s created for them in the wilderness is tantamount to child abuse.
The heavier stuff plays better than the rote assimilation-based humor in this trailer, which is a bad sign considering a review of the film by The A.V. Club’s A.A. Dowd, who saw it at Sundance. According to Dowd, “More often than not … Captain Fantastic settles for lightly amusing fish-out-of-water comedy, scoring easy laughs from a tyke throwing around expressions like ‘fascist capitalism’ and the whole family celebrating Noam Chomsky Day.” He added, “Most irksomely, the film treats death like little more of a plot catalyst, a way to get the family on the road.”
Still, fans will take their Viggo Mortensen however they can get him, especially if there’s a scene where Frank Langella threatens him with a bow and arrow. The multi-faceted Captain Fantastic hits theaters July 8.