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Hunting Movies - Escanaba in da Moonlight Review

Updated on September 1, 2016
Michigan State Flag
Michigan State Flag | Source

A Funny Hunting Film - Really?

You might ask who on earth could make a hunting film as a comedy and succeed.

The answer would be veteran Hollywood star and Michigan native Jeff Daniels. He co-wrote, directed and starred in the farcical Escanaba in da Moonlight—a hilarious take on a hunter's life in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The Buckless Yooper

Daniels portrays the unlucky hunter Reuben Soady, aka The Buckless Yooper. (For those not in the know, a yooper is a term for people from the UP). Reuben comes from a long line of hunters. But at the age of 43, he is about to become the oldest Soady to never bag a buck if his luck doesn't change.

On the annual hunting trip with his father and brother, Reuben's luck changes in a big way, and the film takes a metaphysical twist into the realm of legends, possession, ghosts and the power of love. The cast of quirky characters includes a DNR officer who thinks he sees god and Jimmer Negamanee from Menominee who is apparently a regular guest on spaceships.

"If you're looking for heaven, it's north of the bridge." ~ Albert Soady

Characters

Albert Soady, Reuben's father portrayed by Harve Presnell, just oozes his own brand of Yooperisms handed down to him from great-grandpa Alphonse Soady, the clan's revered patriarch. Some of these gems include (accent and all):

  • "Anyting free is worth saving up fer."
  • "All good tings come to those who shoot straight."
  • "If you don't know where to start, go back to da beginnin'."
  • "Bring your gun up, put your finger on the trigger, take a deep breath to steady your nerves and shoot dat buck."
And two of Albert Soady's own observations:

  • "For dose dat don't know much about the Superior State, dere's a couple of tings that need to be explained. First ting is, in da U.P., we don't explain tings. Second ting is, we got some of the best huntin' and fishin' in da whole world."
  • "Your mother had the tongue of a trout." I won't spoil it for you and tell you the context of that one. You'll just have to watch the movie.
Reuben's brother Remnar, played by Joey Albright, isn't the brightest bulb in the box, but at least he's bagged a buck and provides some of the many comic moments in the film. And finally, while Reuben's Native American wife Wolf Moon Dance (played by Kimberly Guerrero) has a small part, it's pivotal to the story. Instead of bringing the traditional pasties to deer camp, Reuben brings a magic concoction made by his wife. This is just one of the events that turn their trip inside out and hilarity results.

A View from Escanaba

Richter Brewery Office Building in Escanaba, Michigan
Richter Brewery Office Building in Escanaba, Michigan | Source

A Certain Type of Humor

There has been a joke going around Michigan since this film came out that Escanaba in da Moonlight isn't funny - it's a documentary. If you don't get that joke, you might not get the film. In fact the humor won't be to everyone's taste. It's definitely what you would call low-brow, boy humor (or grown men in deer camp humor for that matter).

I'm not from the UP but was lucky enough to be able to visit quite often as a youngster when my grandmother lived there, so I get it and appreciate it and still laugh hysterically when I see this film. It's meant to be a light-hearted if not exaggerated look at the culture of the Upper Peninsula and one man's journey to self-respect. I highly recommend it for those who love movies with an offbeat yet endearing cast of characters.

More Drama

Curious about some of the other actors and Daniels' other projects? Check out these links.

Scenes from the film

Movie Trivia

Jeff Daniels' son Lucas was in the film. He portrayed the annoying kid on the school bus yelling "Buckless Yooper" at Reuben.

What do you think?

Did you like Escanaba in da Moonlight

See results

"It's like Christmas with guns!" ~ Remnar Soady

Michigan Pasties

As mentioned in the film, pasties are a UP tradition, and us trolls (people who live below the Mackinac Bridge) love them too. Find out more about how this treat came to our area. There are also links to recipes and places to order them premade.

Pasty Recipe Instruction

© 2008 PatriciaJoy

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      grannysage 5 years ago

      I'm a real Yooper and I just can't get myself to watch the movie. Not because I don't enjoy humor and making fun of our yooperisms, but I just got turned off by the low-grade humor (I did try watching it, just couldn't finish). And now that you've mentioned pasties, I remember that I have one in the freezer that I ordered from Pasty Central in the UP. I am working my way up north and hoping to get there in July.

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 6 years ago from U.S.

      I loved this movie, and the first couple times we watched it I was nearly rolling on the floor from some of the goofiness :-) But I grew up in Minnesota, and my dad was a deer hunter (I do live in Michigan now). Our friends did NOT appreciate the film. My husband and I also saw the "prequel" at Purple Rose Theater -- another well-done project.

    • PatriciaJoy profile image
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      PatriciaJoy 8 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Rob and BigGirlBlue. I love Jeff Daniels too. I'd love to check out the Purple Rose Theater.

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      Gen and I saw the movie at the Showcase in Ypsi when it came out, neither of us knew much about the play but we did love the film!

      (And don't forget Jeff Daniels' appearance in Terms of Endearment as Debra Winger's husband, which I just saw again this past week.)

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      Moe Wood 8 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      I love Jeff Daniels he has always had a strange quirkiness about him that is endearing.