Metascore
74

Generally favorable reviews - based on 16 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 16
  2. Negative: 1 out of 16
  1. Reviewed by: Barbara VanDenburgh
    Mar 1, 2013
    80
    Herzog’s longing for the ideological purity in which these lives are lived, free of paperwork and bureaucracy, taxes and technology, drives the film, which lacks an overall story arc. And that longing makes the title’s veracity a little suspect.
  2. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Feb 27, 2013
    67
    It’s not that Happy People is uninteresting – its presentation of previously unknown, distant lives is full of lots of interesting tidbits. It’s just that the one sensibility of which we were previously aware – that of Herzog’s – is indiscernible, as if frozen beneath all this movie’s ice.
  3. Reviewed by: Mark Feeney
    Feb 15, 2013
    75
    “Happy” isn’t meant ironically. Herzog, who narrates, clearly loves, and envies, the trappers’ elemental existence and connection to nature.
  4. Reviewed by: Steven Boone
    Jan 24, 2013
    88
    Like "Grizzly Man," Herzog's latest documentary, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga is mostly built around another filmmaker's priceless footage.
  5. Reviewed by: Betsy Sharkey
    Feb 14, 2013
    80
    Herzog has become a master of the understatement — knowing just how long the images can sustain you without a word being said. Vasyukov and his team of cameramen gave him a stunning range to work with, so the filmmaker keeps his own narration to a minimum.
  6. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Jan 24, 2013
    60
    There is indeed much beauty on display, from the icy Taiga landscape to the age-old trapping techniques passed on through generations. But this does feel like a lesser Herzog project (he joined on after it was shot). For viewers who don't share his awe, a short film probably would have sufficed.
  7. Reviewed by: Farran Smith Nehme
    Jan 24, 2013
    75
    The film is both elegiac and amazingly retro, like the nature specials that baby boomers were weaned on - although it's not for animal lovers, unless you have a specific grudge against sables. "Happy People" is the title, but it's virtually all men.
  8. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Jan 24, 2013
    80
    At bottom, though, Happy People celebrates the hard-won freedoms that living in the Taiga offers those who are willing to confront its challenges. There are few places on the planet where the strictures of society don't apply, and the trade-off for fending off bears and minus-50-degree weather is the opportunity to lead a pure, solitary life.
  9. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Jan 26, 2013
    90
    The resulting film is both beautiful and fascinating, and offers a thrilling travelogue through a spectacular landscape few of us will ever see first-hand.
  10. Reviewed by: Drew Hunt
    Jan 21, 2013
    25
    It would be inaccurate to call Happy People: A Year in the Taiga the newest Werner Herzog film.
  11. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Jan 26, 2013
    80
    Happy People's images of the Taiga, while often breathtaking, come from the standard visual language of nature documentary: in between interviews with villagers, cutaways to icicles hanging from branches or dawn breaking over an expanse of snow. It's Herzog's inventive use of voice-over that elevates the film above an extremely well-researched episode of "Nature."
  12. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Jan 23, 2013
    83
    The pleasure of Happy People comes from watching these men go about their work, while they explain that the only way to make it in the taiga is to do and take exactly what's needed, and not get greedy.
  13. Reviewed by: Frank Scheck
    Jan 30, 2013
    70
    While the original version's four hours might have made for wearisome viewing for Western audiences, Herzog's 94-minute cut feels just right, fully immersing us in this rarified world without lapsing into tedium.
  14. Reviewed by: Nicolas Rapold
    Jan 24, 2013
    60
    Some limitations of adapting secondhand material show through in the uneven visual quality and diminished control over mood. Yet Mr. Herzog is openly inspired, as ever, by the rugged independence of these resourceful trappers, who seem stoic about everything but their faithful dogs.
  15. Reviewed by: Michael Atkinson
    Jan 22, 2013
    60
    This Siberian jaunt, free from cultural weirdness and ethical barbed wire, is even more of a vacation for Werner Herzog than it first appears: The German codirector never left L.A.
  16. Reviewed by: Alan Scherstuhl
    Jan 22, 2013
    90
    It's fitting that this film of people making do with what they have should itself look somewhat humble, without lyricism, a work not of beauty but of work-which is the thing that makes it beautiful, no matter who directed it.

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