Review: ‘Strange World’ boasts a weird, vibrant world where fathers learn important lessons about mothering
The trailer for Strange World doesn’t do much to tell you this is a movie about fathers and boys — in fact it may say the opposite. The film features a group of men (played by Will Arnett) who are supposed to be the sons of a dead girl (Amandla Stenberg).
But unlike most of the films in which boys are father surrogates, Strange World is a genuinely well-made movie, without the over-the-top sentimentality or the need for constant male bonding that has made many of the best father-son movies. It also has a terrific cast: There’s Arnett, in his first leading role since Arrested Development — and the first time since 2001 that he’s not playing a supporting role. Stenberg is terrific as the dead girl and her boyfriend (Sam Rockwell), and the boys (John Gallagher Jr., Ben Kingsley, and Will Forte are all great) are fun, too. In fact, it’s a delight to watch the fatherly dynamics play out when they do.
The story is simple, if not simplistic: There’s an older woman (Lena Dunham) who’s convinced she (and she alone) can “fix” their troubled family, leading to her attempt to use a Ouija board to contact her (unspecified) dead father. We see the family through the eyes of the boy, whom she tells that she had sex with in the hopes of making him a better dad. That in turn inspires the three male figures to create a game in which they pretend to be the boy’s dad and they attempt to teach him how to be a good one, too. So far, so simple. The problem is that there are so many things that don’t seem to make any sense (both in the script by Ayelet Waldman and the direction by David Gordon Green). And somehow, the whole thing works, but only just.
The movie has a strange world and a few moments that make you wonder what the heck is going on. But it’s a fun movie that finds some of the same success that it did in the short-lived NBC pilot where it starred Arnett and Dunham. In this film, the actors are all perfectly cast and the