Grade: B+
2017, 76 min., Color
Film Movement
Not Rated (would be PG for the use of a goat head, some dirty dancing)
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Bonus features: B+ (“Miss World” 20-min. short film)
Amazon link

Bad Lucky Goat is a film in English . . . with English subtitles, because the Caribbean accents are so thick that it’s easy to miss some of the dialogue if you’re not from the area. It’s also that rare foreign film that feels suitable for families with children, since it’s about two teens and there’s no sex, not much profanity, and none of the graphic violence that American audiences are accustomed to seeing.

Plot-wise, it’s a bit like the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. That is, a single incident sets an entire plot chain in motion: If you accidentally hit a goat while driving to pick up benches for your family’s small tourist hotel . . . you have to get rid of the body and somehow fix the damage to the family truck, or face the consequences. And if you have to get the truck fixed, you have to find the money to pay for it. That’s the simple premise behind this island tale about two siblings who are brought closer together because of their shared one-day adventure.

I said that Bad Lucky Goat was family-friendly, and it is. But you should know that these kids, while basically good, are no angels. They’re scam artists of the highest order—though you get the feeling that in Port Paradise scamming might be a way of life. After all, the first glimpse we get of life in this unspecified country (though it feels like Jamaica, Bad Lucky Goat was filmed in Columbia) is of a hapless police officer sitting on a curve with a radar gun, trying to catch a speeder. But we see that Cornelius (“Corn” for short) and his friend are using the situation as a money-maker to help them record a demo that might get them a tourist gig as musicians. One of the boys comes out of the bushes in a stretch of road just ahead of the cop to warn drivers with a sign; the other is positioned after the cop with a bucket to collect “tips.” Clever? You bet. Almost as clever as a scam one of the boys works later to fleece money from a congregational flock.

As Rita and her brother follow this domino plot, they end up visiting an island butcher, a Rastafarian drum maker and his musician friends, a cockfight where young men and women outside briefly engage in their own brand of dirty dancing, an island mystic, a local tough guy and the local police—the latter, involuntarily. But it’s all played “island light,” a breezy misadventure that you trust is somehow going to end all right.

I wouldn’t say that the two young stars are as much of a revelation as young Keisha Castle-Hughes was in Whale Rider, but, as Corn and Rita, Honlenny Huffington and Kiara Howard are both believable and engaging. You want to spend time with them, and frankly you wish this adventure lasted a little longer than the 76-minute run time.

First-time full-length feature director Samir Oliveros knows how to tell a good story and doesn’t allow his auteurist impulses get in the way. A few artistic shots here and there feel like just the right amount, and a wonderful reggae soundtrack reinforces the easygoing nature of island life. It’s strong enough that more than a few people will probably go to Amazon looking to download the tunes, the best of which is a title song that paces the end credits.

Bad Lucky Goat is a film that has artifice, certainly, but it still feels organic. Compared to American indie flicks it’s far less heavy-handed. The only criticism I have is that the mystical elements could have been better integrated or connected. But this is still one fun, weird ride.

Language: A couple of “hells” and “damns” and that’s it
Sex: Only some “twerking” in front of the cockfights
Violence: Someone is kidnapped with a bag over his head, but it’s mostly tough talk; some roosters appear to be killed during the cockfights, but not graphically
Adult situations: Could be some drug use, but it’s very subtle if so; overall it’s a pretty wholesome movie
Takeaway: Oliveros has crafted a very nice first full-length feature that should invite repeat play