My Dad the Bounty Hunter premieres Feb. 9, 2023, on Netflix.
Netflix’s animation slate is starting off on strong footing this year, with several exciting additions coming to the streaming platform in the coming weeks. That is especially true if you’re looking for a delightfully charming, family-friendly space adventure like My Dad the Bounty Hunter.
Created by Everett Downing and Patrick Harpin, My Dad the Bounty Hunter follows the story of siblings Lisa (Priah Ferguson) and Sean (JeCobi Swain) as they struggle to spend time with their absentee father, Terry (Laz Alonso). Missed plays, canceled events, and rescheduled visits have tarnished what was once a healthy relationship. A planned weekend of celebratory activities is offered as a means of mending fences. Unfortunately, a visit from a strange man seeking Terry’s services derails the fun in spectacular ways.
My Dad the Bounty Hunter is presented as an action-packed romp through space, depicting a series of unfortunate events leading to shocking discoveries and hard-learned lessons amidst lively characters and slapstick humor. The interesting premise – two kids stow away in their father’s car in hopes of following him to work, only to find out he’s more “Boba Fett” than truck driver – doesn’t completely remove the familiar aspects of the series. Because of this, it succeeds in showcasing the typical family-friendly content one would expect to see in even the most mundane of animated features.
That said, its formulaic nature doesn’t really mar the experience. This in part due to how well some of the basic elements hold up. Kids will enjoy the silly situations that Terry and his children often find themselves in. A lot of the adult humor lands thanks to impeccable timing. Even the corny moments are easy to stomach thanks to the charming animation and a slew of likable characters. While the creators might have sought to check all of the “right” boxes when creating My Dad the Bounty Hunter, it’s hard to argue with the results: it’s a fun show.
But My Dad the Bounty Hunter also works as well as it does because of how seriously it takes its main dilemma. The alien worlds, comical (and sometimes frightening) villains, and explosive action – all of that takes a back seat to Terry’s familial issues. The rift between him and his kids grows as the season progresses. Lisa’s passive aggressive nature is palpable at times, and her disdain for her father’s ghosting habits is only ever overshadowed by the deep hurt she carries. Sean, on the other hand, is always hopeful. Still, he isn’t immune to what’s going on, the manifestation of which can be often seen on his face.
Beyond that are several nods to various systemic issues. While the show doesn’t go out of its way to present a marginalized view, aside from having a majority Black cast, it does offer up some strong commentary in the peripheral. Ideas surrounding forced labor, corrupt corporations, and the line between willful ignorance and outright compliance are explored. These aspects of the overarching story are meaningful as they don’t just help to establish the type of universe Terry and co. live in but also give way to potential conflicts between main characters.
Of course, none of this works without solid voice work. Laz Alonso does a great job as Terry. His depiction is rather human; the difficulties associated with wanting to keep his kids safe while also adhering to their desire to spend more time with him can be heard in his voice. Priah and JeCobi provide strong performances as well. They seemed to grow more comfortable with their roles as things progressed, which added an extra layer of believability to later scenes. Yvonne Orji, whose talents are criminally underused, is also great as Terry’s wife, Tess.