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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Tiger Hunter is a 1979-set dramedy about a man (Danny Pudi) who leaves his native India and journeys to New York to pursue the American Dream. Though it's an American movie, it was produced in the Bollywood tradition (i.e., as if it would be facing heavy censorship), so it has virtually no violence, sex, language, consumerism, or drinking/drugs/smoking. In one scene, the main character's father hunts a tiger and holds a rifle, but all shooting/killing happens offscreen. (The slain tiger's tail is even shown swinging along with a musical number.) There's a mild joke centered around two men in a bathroom stall who are trying to remove a pair of pants that belong to a shared suit; a man overhears them and thinks something sexual is going on. The story isn't exactly innovative, but the characters are very likable, and even though it flirts with stereotypes, it also tries to spin them in a positive way.
What's the story?
In THE TIGER HUNTER, it's 1979, and Sami (Danny Pudi) wants to win the heart of the girl he loves, Ruby (Karen David), and to live up to the legacy of his father -- the tiger hunter of the movie's title. So he moves from his small village in India to New York to become an engineer. Of course, nothing goes as planned, and Sami winds up moving into a tiny apartment already occupied by a dozen other misplaced souls (mostly Indian) and takes a temporary job as a draftsman. When Ruby and her strict father visit, Sami pretends to be living in a mansion that actually belongs to the boss's son, Alex (Jon Heder), to impress them. But the lie is exposed. Sami's only chance to set things right is to solve a problem his company can't crack: how to make a microwave oven that doesn't explode.
Is it any good?
This lighthearted dramedy treads the stalest, most worn-out story grooves imaginable, but thanks to its cultural sensitivity and sweetly lovable characters, it's very difficult not to like. Although it gives nods to Bollywood productions, The Tiger Hunter was mostly made by American-based Indian artists; if you look hard enough, you might spy some kind of subversive commentary about the American Dream. But it's much easier to just float along with the familiar old twists and turns, as well as the goofy supporting characters.
Happily, the movie doesn't end with Sami landing his dream job and becoming a millionaire. Better still, he learns how to enjoy life's small moments. And though he races to get the girl in the final act, it's not a race against time that ends with a tear-stained speech. Rather, it becomes a casual, sightseeing road trip with friends; the ending is left ambiguous. The charming Pudi (of Community) is a big reason all of this works, but credit must also go to co-writer Sameer Asad Gardezi and writer/director Lena Khan for holding it all together (and not exploding like a microwave). Not to mention that the 1970s-era fashions, cars, and props are fabulous.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about potential stereotypes in The Tiger Hunter. Are the Indian characters stereotypical? Do you laugh at them, or along with them? What's the difference?
How would you define the American Dream? How does Sami try to pursue it? What does he learn? How does he demonstrate perseverance?
What is a Bollywood movie? How is The Tiger Hunter similar to or different from Bollywood productions?
When does the main character lie, and when does he tell the truth? What are the consequences of his lying?
What did you learn about life in 1979 from this movie? How was it different from today?
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