Take the Shot (Film Review: “The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter”)

A charming coming of age comedy about a self-promoting, outdoorsman Dad desperate to imprint his passion for hunting onto his adolescent son. And the companion video won’t hurt his business, either.

SnapShot Plot

Josh Brolin (W; Hail Caesar!) has cornered the market on a certain type of rugged and red blooded American sex appeal mixed with a clownish buffoonery that elevates any material to its most comedic potential. As is the case in the sneakily charming, slapstick adventure comedy, The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter. Brolin co-stars with Danny McBride (Pineapple Express; Up in the Air) who co-scripted this movie, as Buck Ferguson and his sidekick and trusted cameraman, Don. Buck is an (intentionally) larger than life hunter who has mined an entire career out of a series of self-produced videos entitled, “Buck Fever”. They’re so cheesy it appears deliberate, although Buck surely lacks the self awareness or capacity for nuance to tell the difference. To any of you Boomers old enough to remember the long-running NBC series, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, the setup on Buck Fever reminds us of the relationship between Host, Marlin Perkins and his beefy sidekick, Jim Fowler. As Marlin would calmly direct a wildlife scene, looking almost nattily dressed and perfect, Jim would be jumping into quicksand, wrestling wild alligators or peeling a Boa Constrictor from around his neck. The scenes were laughable, although quite real, and made for loads of good natured spoofs over the years.

Here, Buck and Don show up at the home of Buck’s ex-wife (and her boyfriend) to pick up his son, Jaden for a male bonding weekend and for the boy to nab his first Whitetail Deer – in Buck’s eyes the ultimate coming of age experience he can give his boy. Of course, Don’s along to film the entire adventure, since there’s nothing that sells more than Family. Jaden (played by newcomer Montana Jordan, who nows co-stars in the CBS comedy Young Sheldon) is more interested in chatting with his little girlfriend on his smart phone than sitting silently for hours on the cold ground waiting for a deer to wander into his cross-hairs. In fact, the weekend is shaping up to be a miserable failure, with Buck losing confidence in the single platform upon which no boyfriend or stepfather can compete with him for Jaden’s love and respect. Until . . . the unexpected happens and Buck, Don and Jaden (especially) are tested in a way none of them could have predicted, revealing exactly what they are made of.

Parting Shot

Co-written (w McBride) by director, Jody Hill, best known for his films, Observe & Report and Vice Principals, the character at the center of this film seems – like the men in the others – comfortably ignorant of his truest, innermost feelings. Buck likes his persona, and he likes it super-sized and beefy. In his mind, if he fails to inject that same lust for the kill in his son, he’ll never have another avenue into the kind of bond he desires the most.

Where the film has some minor holes in the plot, and a few moments of blandness, they are quite forgivable for a mostly tight script and a convincing deadpan banter between Buck and Don. As well, The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter contains several hilarious outdoorsy calamities and a truly exhilarating climax. This is a movie that had a real chance at mediocrity, saved mostly by an exciting setting, good chemistry, a decent script, and a fantastic performance by Josh Brolin. His performance so sneaks up on you that by the time you think ‘there’s nothin’ to see here, Folks’, you find yourself with tears in your eyes. So much for Like Father, Like Son.

The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter is presently streaming on Netflix.

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YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIwccgV2whM

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