Die Hippie Scum: Captain Fantastic

CF_03042_R (l to r) Annalise Basso stars as Vespyr, Viggo Mortensen as Ben and Shree Crooks as Zaja in CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, a Bleecker Street release. Credit: Erik Simkins / Bleecker Street

Captain Fantastic
Directed by Matt Ross
Opens July 8

At a crucial turning point in the nightmarishly earnest Captain Fantastic, Frank Langella accosts son-in-law Viggo Mortensen, who has just interrupted his daughter’s funeral. Langella threatens to call the police on Mortensen, who’s clad in a red suit straight out of the Yves Saint Laurent’s reject pile circa 1968. “Who are they gonna listen to? Me or a hippie in a clown suit?” A just question, Frank Langella. How on earth could anyone involved in this film possibly have thought an audience would sympathize with Mortensen’s character, a desperately unlikable pile of smug platitudes who routinely puts his children’s lives in danger? The kind of guy who walks around with his dick out so he can chastise onlookers with a practiced and arrogant, “It’s just a penis.” Who gave his kids made-up names like “Kielyr” and “Rellian” but named his school bus “Steve.” Who’s replaced Christmas with Noam Chomsky Day. Who insists on scoring his own life with bagpipes and the insufferable campfire jamborees his unbearable, smartass children are always throwing for themselves. The kind of guy who breaks up a funeral because his wife’s last request is more important than a roomful of people being able to grieve without being yelled at by a hippie in a clown suit.

Written and directed by Whole Foods, Captain Fantastic follows Mortensen’s Ben Cash, a survivalist lunatic who’s trapped his six children in the woods with him after his wife (Trin Miller) went into a hospital to treat her depression. He teaches them to fight each other with knives, educates them about obscure political discourse, and generally makes them run around their Pacific Northwest hideaway as if training for either the apocalypse or The Amazing Race. Ben is shocked when he takes his family into the outside world for their mother’s funeral and learns that ordinary people don’t quite get the logic behind his raising a family of near-feral serial killers. What with their fax machines and hula hoops, the rest of creation doesn’t get just how special Ben Cash and his sickeningly precocious brood are. Regular folks don’t understand how much better life is when your six-year-old is climbing a hundred-foot cliff face with a knife between his teeth, hunting deer for food while Sigur Rós moos incessantly in the background.

A film that boldly answers the question “What if The Hills Have Eyes was Little Miss Sunshine?”, Captain Fantastic wants nothing more than to tie you to a chair made of human skin and lecture you about your disgusting reliance on public schools and cell phones. Meanwhile women, gays and people of color are shot to death everyday because Congress won’t vote on stricter background checks. Never mind that the only reason Ben Cash and his clan of Marx-quoting, gimlet-eyed monsters can live off the grid is because he’s secretly some kind of millionaire. And don’t think too carefully about someone so committed to living a life of Buddhist detachment that he digs his wife’s corpse up so his children can ride with it in the back of a bus for a daylong journey to burn her body by the ocean and sing Guns and Roses while she chars up next to them. No, that isn’t some planned fourth Wicker Man movie, that’s this film’s final act, played breathlessly, as if it were the most touching sight anyone had ever witnessed. Giving communism and home schooling an equally bad name, this horrifically precious, self-satisfied brain freeze of a movie is what most of America probably pictures a Bernie Sanders presidency looking like. After an hour and a half with the Bonaroo Von Trapp Family singers, you’d consider voting for Donald Trump, Greg Stillson, or Kang and Kodos.


  1. Spot-on review!! This film was painfully bad in its own self-satisfaction and reliance on “precious” moments and horrible cliches… Ugh. It’s like Wes Anderson tried to make a “realistic” film.

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