For many of us, parenthood is or will be, the biggest chapter of our lives. From birth, that child becomes the new priority, the new focus of all your goals and aspirations. But what if you aren’t ready? What if you don’t want the good times to end, and your own aspirations to die? And what do you do if you realize that you may have ruined your own life chasing those dreams? This is the question Jody Hill poses in THE LEGACY OF A WHITETAIL DEER HUNTER.

This is the latest collaboration between Jody Hill and Danny McBride. Already establishing themselves as a comedy powerhouse team with EASTBOUND & DOWN and VICE PRINCIPALS, the duo creates another sad sack protagonist trying to righten his life and his relationships. THE LEGACY OF A WHITETAIL DEER HUNTER may be one of the tamest entries of their filmography. But, it’s a worthwhile watch for any fans of their brand of dark humor.

THE LEGACY OF A WHITETAIL DEER HUNTER premiere at SXSW 2018.

The film follows Buck Ferguson (played by a game Josh Brolin), a celebrated hunter of whitetail deer. Ferguson has made a name for himself in the hunting home video circuit, with numerous films shot over the past several years. All this time spent hunting has caused a rift in his family, who he has essentially abandoned in his pursuit of bucks and does.

In an attempt to rekindle his relationship with his son, Jaden (played by newcomer Montana Jordan), as well as boost video sales, Ferguson sets out to help Jaden bag his first buck. Along for the ride is his videographer Don (played by the always hilarious Danny McBride), who both loves and loathes Ferguson.

Tame Darkness

As stated above, this is not Hill-McBride’s best at bat. Many jokes fall flat in THE LEGACY OF A WHITETAIL DEER HUNTER. This is especially true with the numerous attempts at setting up Jaden for the laugh. Montana Jordan is fine here, but much of the humor he is included in is very broad and cheeky, leading to some groan-inducing “adults are stupid” type humor.

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It’s also the tamest piece of storytelling the two have created. Fans of Hill aren’t going to find the same pitch-black humor that is present in OBSERVE & REPORT, or even the more vulgar humor of EASTBOUND & DOWN. Much of the film feels like it is leading to a very dark place, only to pull back. A much darker 3rd act is set up but doesn’t materialize by the end.

Strong Performances

That isn’t to say that THE LEGACY OF A WHITETAIL DEER HUNTER isn’t funny. Brolin is more than game here, willing to sink his teeth fully into the simpleton that is Buck Ferguson. Brolin seamlessly switches from a gruff man of the soil to a battered man, afraid to raise his voice to his son. It is an interesting dichotomy and leads to some of the film’s best surreal humor.

The film is surreal mostly because of its tonal shifts. Scenes shift from line to line, as relationships change on a dime. The best example of this is between Buck and his son, where a stern lesson turns into cautious groveling in one look. Written, it sounds odd and distorting, but on film, it works in a very interesting way.

The Legacy Of A Whitetail Deer Hunter
The Cast Of THE LEGACY OF A WHITETAIL DEER HUNTER.

Ferguson may be simplistic in his habits and knowledge but is very complex in character. He is a man who has come to the realization that his aspirations have essentially ended his family. His wife is about to marry another man, a man that Jaden seemingly sees as a father figure. Ferguson chases both a deer and the disintegrating relationship he has with his son.

Amidst all this emotional baggage is the comedic fulcrum of Danny McBride. He plays an interesting character here in Don, Ferguson’s cameraman. He is a malleable man, easily manipulated and persuaded by both Ferguson and his son. Don is also crass and childish, always discussing sex explicitly in front of the adolescent Jaden.  In classic McBride fashion, he steals the show here. McBride’s impeccable comedic timing elicits the biggest laughs of the film.

THE LEGACY OF A WHITETAIL DEER HUNTER is Worth A Shot

THE LEGACY OF A WHITETAIL DEER HUNTER many not be the strongest entry in the Hill-McBride canon. Then again, their collaboration has produced some of the greatest black comedy of the 21st century. THE LEGACY OF A WHITETAIL DEER HUNTER is still a well made and executed film about fatherhood, and the cost of chasing one’s dreams. Ferguson is not unlike many fathers, who attempt to play catch-up with a son who has seemingly outgrown them.

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THE LEGACY OF A WHITETAIL DEER HUNTER will see a release on Netflix later this year. If you’re interested in a tame dark comedy, turn on and tune in to this tale of a man, his son, his cameraman, and one magnificent deer.

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