Movie Review: ‘THE TIGER HUNTER’ – predictable but charming

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Kip Mooney // Film Critic

THE TIGER HUNTER

Not rated, 94 min.
Director: Lena Khan
Cast: Danny PudiRizwan ManjiJon HederKaren David and Kevin Pollak

Sadly, Danny Pudi is the only cast member who hasn’t gone onto bigger things after COMMUNITY came to an end in 2015. Alison Brie has GLOW, Gillian Jacobs has LOVE, Yvette Nicole Brown is on this fall’s THE MAYOR, Joel McHale had a show last year as well as commercials and movies. And of course, John Oliver and Donald Glover need no introduction anymore.

But Pudi, thoroughly charming as the socially awkward film student Abed, hasn’t found a solid role yet. Now THE TIGER HUNTER doesn’t really offer him one as rich as Abed. His only defining characteristic is his determination, which doesn’t make for the most dynamic lead (at least since he’s not training in a sport here).

His Sami Malik lives in the shadow of his dashing father, who protected his Indian village from tigers. But now it’s the late 1970s: his father has since passed, and his engineering degree is useless in a town that’s barely industrialized. So he takes the leap and moves to Chicago, where he assumes he’ll land a job and house as soon as they see his qualifications.

As anyone who has struggled to find a good job in their field can tell you, that’s not how it works. Sami ends up sharing an apartment with nearly a dozen other immigrants, all working low-end jobs while they wait for their big break.

Sami takes a job as a draftsman for a company making microwaves, though they struggle with finding one that both fully heats frozen food and doesn’t explode. He makes friends with the boss’ son (Jon Heder, in what amounts to his biggest role in nearly a decade) and his Dukes of Hazzard-obsessed roommate (Rizwan Manji).

When Sami learns his childhood crush Ruby (Karen David), he and his pals hatch a scheme to pass the boss’ palatial estate off as his own home. If all of this sounds like any other number of “trying to make it in the big city” movies, well you’re right. THE TIGER HUNTER owes a debt to all those movies, as well as Wes Anderson. Especially in the flashback scenes, director Lena Khan – in her feature debut – owes a lot to his style. Unfortunately, a movie with this small a budget can only afford sound-alikes for its soundtrack. Only one genuine ’70s hit makes its way into the film: Cat Stevens’ “Wild World,” whose bittersweet lyrics don’t really jibe with the film’s sunny outlook.

Still, the movie is effortlessly charming, even when its plot knots itself into clichés. It’s also sweet without being saccharine. It’s not original, but it works.

Grade: B-

THE TIGER HUNTER is now playing in select markets.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.