The Tiger Hunter is a conflicting but ultimately nice movie. The film's intentions are positive, telling a story that shines a light on a certain cultural experience (that of Indian immigrants to the United States) in a certain time period (the 1970s) that most audiences are probably not familiar with. The only flaw is the way this unique story has been grafted to a framework about finding inner success that is especially formulaic, resulting in a film that is simultaneously original and extremely predictable at the same time. It'd be easy to walk away feeling as if the film is so slight as to not make an impression, but the movie's sweetness and warmth win out.
The script, co-written by Sameer Gardezi and director Lena Khan, is the biggest culprit when it comes to the movie's featherweight flimsiness. Early on, they set up a structure they hardly utilize, cutting from flashbacks of individual nuggets of Azeem's advice to the decisions that Sami is making in the present. Although The Tiger Hunter is ultimately about Sami letting go of his initial impressions of his father and his father's advice (including their build to an unexpected resolution), Azeem ends up making less of an impression overall than the character seems like he ought to, given the story is named after him. Khan and Gardezi also tend toward a style of humor that reads more silly and cutesy than than true-to-life (even when those details were drawn from Khan's own friends).
On the other hand, The Tiger Hunter shines when it comes to character. Although Danny Pudi's screen presence tends toward the same featherweight pleasantness that makes the movie feel insubstantial, his charm keeps Sami sympathetic and likable even when he's making the wrong choices. When settling in the city, Sami moves in with thirteen other roommates, all fellow Indian expats (and one black man) who came to America with dreams of engineering and who have settled for service jobs. He has an especially fun relationship with the perpetually optimistic Babu (Rizwan Manji), who loves all American television, ranging from "The Dukes of Hazzard" (even buying a busted up orange Dodge Charger) to "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (he has a cardboard cutout of his "fiancee" that he makes eyes at). At work, Sami befriends Alex Womack (Jon Heder), a cheery and wise photographer who also works in the drafting department that Sami accepts as a temporary alternative to engineering. Along with Karen David as Ruby, who has strong chemistry with Pudi, the brightest scenes of The Tiger Hunter are just watching these characters interact.
As a filmmaker, Khan's style is fairly unintrusive, allowing character moments to play out in a way that helps them feel real even when the script feels like a sitcom. The extended sequence of the characters trying to fool General Iqbal ultimately turns out okay because the tone never turns outright wacky, even when the scenario feels contrived to put a roadblock between Sami and Ruby and give Sami another major crisis of confidence to overcome. In particular, it's nice that even when the film is cracking jokes about its characters, it never ends up feeling snide or as if it's painting an ironic picture -- there's a general kindness and good-natured vibe to the movie that gives it that final boost of charm that puts it up over the top. The Tiger Hunter may not quite be as resourceful or plucky as its protagonist, but it comes close enough.
The Video and Audio
An original theatrical trailer for The Tiger Hunter is also included.