Seen as a brave folk hero to some and a menacing nuisance to others, teenager Colton Harris-Moore outran police forces, bounty hunters, and watch dogs for nearly three years. He hitched rides, stole money, and was infamously known for stealing airplanes and crashing them on new islands to loot.
Fly Colt Fly marks the first feature-length movie from Andrew and Adam Gray and their documentary is out to chronicle Harris-Moore’s fugitive escapades through various formats. They use animation, live-action reenactments, and actual security footage to thread this retelling of the elusive “Barefoot Bandit”.
These switches in storytelling make Fly Colt Fly consistently captivating albeit a bit long in the tooth. The portions that have been furiously animated are appropriate since the events sound as if they’ve been lifted from a Saturday morning cartoon.
Fly Colt Fly is a docudrama geared towards a teenage crowd. Think A&E junior. The shape the doc takes is ultimately why it stands on its own legs, but also why it may segregate its viewers.
On one hand, Fly Colt Fly is always moving and baffling us with Colton’s anti-hero traits. It provides interviews, but doesn’t feel like another doc featuring “talking heads”. The filmmakers’ accessible debut is for a younger crowd who may have been having a hard time generating excitement for documentaries. The filmmakers deliver its content with fitting zest, making this a great example for that specific crowd. It shows clearly what the genre can provide.
On the other side of the spectrum are older movie goers, who are gong to think the story is interesting but also find a fair amount of the filmmaking to be hokey. It doesn’t gel for more doc-savvy high school graduates.
Live-action reenactments are very hard to pull off. In the case of Fly Colt Fly, Andrew and Adam have tried to replicate a video game feel to their shots. The camera often establishes environments by levitating behind “Colton”. The actor is always in a stance that suggests he’s ready to play. Older audience members are going to understand what the duo are going for, but are going to find they overkill the concept after the first couple of shots.
The animation is slick, but there’s no way of shaking the fact that it looks like a hyper episode of Carmen Sandiego. Perhaps that was the point, but it’s hard to build an emotional connection to these jagged, stylistic pictures. It’s a style that’s tailor made for a certain age group, which leaves the rest of us outside.
The filmmaking duo have a small amount of material to humanize a mysterious guy like Colton, but they attempt to do so through interviews with his mother, cohorts, and victims. The people who have a close bond with Harris-Moore hold back but offer thought-provoking suggestions about what made Colton tick.
Other friends offer insight that’s not as easy to buy; such as the explanation describing Colton’s burglaries as a troubled individual getting a feel for how a normal family lives. There’s too much stolen merchandise to believe this claim. Even if you remain skeptical, the brothers’ directorial open door policy to different theories is appreciative and shows they’ll look at a subject from all angles.
Adults will find most of the Gray brothers’ pizazz to be corny, but if you’re between the ages of 12 and 16, you’re going to think the Gray brothers put together a pretty cool movie. Though the film’s presentation won’t win everyone over, the story behind Fly Colt Fly is universally fascinating.