Josh Brolin joins Danny McBride and his “The Foot-Fist-Way” director Jody Hill for another comic riff on emasculated Southern white manhood with “The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter.”
It’s a satiric goof on fathers and sons and the decline of “the tradition” that used to be passed, generation to generation — hunting — that allows Brolin to send up his manly man’s man image, playing a divorced dad who loves the woods because that’s the last place he feels in control. Unarmed animals can’t talk back.
Buck Ferguson is the country Carolina star of “Buck Adventures” DVDs, homey little stalk-and-shoot escapades filmed by his trusty, bullied videographer Don (McBride).
“I’ve seen the best and I’ve killed the best,” he drawls in the opening credits to his show, hunting whitetail deer “all over the world.” He sticks John 3:16 in the credits because he knows his audience — white, Southern, hunting happy Protestants who, as an ex-president famously noted, “cling to guns or religion” to deal with their bitterness.
Buck’s bitter about his divorce, with his ex-wife (Carrie Coons) taking up with a richer, slicker more citified fellow (Scoot McNairy) who just might be the new “Daddy” to his son, Jaden (Montana Jordan of TV’s “Young Sheldon”). Not if Buck has his way, though.
His latest “adventure” is taking the phone-game-guitar-and-girl addicted kid out to “catch” his first deer. It’s a bonding experience, “gettin’ blood on your boots,” that makes fast the ties that bind, that helps ensure there will be a next generation of hunters, just like Buck. And Don will be there to video the “emotional” journey, bickering with Buck about camera angles that create an “emotional crescendo,” “B-roll,” coverage and the kill shot.
Buck, who has a sadistic glee about shooting deer, gets all gooey when he insists his shows are about “family.” For Jaden, this will entail “learning to be a man,” taking on his “whitetail legacy,” getting over any phobia about killing something so cute.
“We can honor the deer,” he teaches, “but we can’t love it.”
The kid? “I thought we were gonna be straight-up KILLIN’ stuff.”
Jaden’s a straight-up spoiled punk who seems to have taken the divorce too easily, in spite of being held back a year in school. He’s indulged by his might-be “new daddy,” who gives him a laser-scope/large capacity magazine Bushmaster assault rifle for the trip.
So much for Buck passing on his granddad’s ancient Winchester.
The kid “always thought of myself as a Marriott guy.” But camping it is.
He’s instantly bored, constantly patching up things with his clingy girlfriend by phone.
So much for long, patient deer stand sits for a “non-typical” big 20 point buck that they spied in the Appalachians of N.C., where this three day quest takes place.
They don their camo (no orange visibility vests), “camp” with a state of the art product placement air mattress and horse around, from site to site, on big, fast rented ATVs.
And things don’t go quite according to plan.
McBride, working with Jody Hill again, dials down the over-the-top vulgarity that’s become his “Vice Principals/Pineapple Express” trademark. Just a little. Why isn’t Buck dating again, his kid wonders?
“The only tail your dad is chasin’ is WHITEtail!”
Brolin is the very embodiment of a “type,” here. Buck is a self-described man’s man losing his grip on his life and his world. He drinks, doesn’t acknowledge that guys like him have sissified camping and hunting, with all their lazy redneck Outdoor World toys and has as much self-awareness as the dumb deer he’s stalking.
If he didn’t vote for Trump, it was only because he was holding out for Ted Nugent.
But Brolin doesn’t make Buck some Bubba stereotype. He’s focused, dogmatic, proficient, a blowhard and maybe a bit of as we-say-down-South “chicken-s–t” without the control his firearms give him. Can’t control his kid, isn’t shy about making his cameraman take risks before he parades himself taking them — on camera.
The kid is the standout character, a Southern version of a tiny-attention-span generation that grows up too fast, quits anything that’s “too hard,” utterly uninterested with “tradition” and “legacy,” inured to violence by video games and yet Disney-conditioned to see an animal as a living thing that wouldn’t like to be shot.
Young Jordan makes this kid cocksure, just learning how to “handle” women and how he can bully his needy dad around, but starting to accept the quiet, under-educated horror that could be his future.
Hill and co-screenwriters McBride and John Carcieri deliver minor tweaks to expectations with the plot, making Don the Profane Father Confessor to both father and son, giving the kid a learning arc, suggesting that maybe it’s just too late for Dad to learn.
That renders “Whitetail” only fitfully amusing after a genuine knee-slapper of an opening act. It’s not as slapstick silly and gonzo-paced as “Tag,” but manages a similarly sweet tone.
As comedies go, it’s not a kill shot. But it makes a miss almost as entertaining.
MPAA Rating: TV-14, violence, profanity, sexuality, alcohol abuse (child drinking)
Cast: Josh Brolin, Danny McBride, Montana Jordan
Credits:Directed by Jody Hill , script by . A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:27