Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Directed by Taika Waititi
Starring Julian Dennison, Sam Neill, Rhys Darby
Review by Jordan
There is a breed of family friendly movie that from a plot perspective is known before it is seen; with even the poster and concept being all that is needed to accurately convey the mood and story. These movies are often a chore to sit through, as through lack of endeavour they can’t sustain sufficient interest levels.
Then, there is a rarer breed of family friendly movie, that is exactly like the above only entirely worthwhile for audiences young and old because it tackles the genre in a fresh manner, losing inconsequential and familiar arcs and rather revelling in the situational comedy other films might be panned for. The difference is, despite running out of legs towards the finale, the situation so genuinely funny, with the laughs lead by Julian Dennison as a would-be juvenile delinquent and supported by Sam Neill as his illiterate put-upon uncle and apparent kidnapper.
Decked out like a young Tupac, Ricky Baker’s initial response to life with foster carers in the New Zealand wilderness was to hop straight back into the back seat of the police escort car, but having grown attached to his new mother figure Bella (Rima Te Wiata), he warms to the idea of fresh air, quilts and hot water bottles and relaxes into his new home. Then, when tragedy strikes and he accidently burns down the barn, in fear of ending up in juvenile detention he takes to the forest to live off the land, making it a few hundred meters before being found by Uncle Hector, who may or may not be a pervert but will certainly end up with one very sore leg in need of medical attention at the end of their following four months together.
They are the Wilderpeople.
With its box office domination and more formulaic design, Taika Waititi’s fourth feature film sees him announcing himself to the mainstream, a direction to be welcomed by the larger audience given his dedication to more quirky independent fare in Eagle vs Shark (2007), Boy (2010) and What We Do in the Shadows (2014). With the possible exception of the latter, while his films are certainly far removed in tone, levels of violence and number of Sumatran rat monkey references, there are comparisons that can be drawn between his filmography to date and the early career of fellow NZ film-maker Peter Jackson. Waititi’s sense of humour is childish, but in a good way… it appeals to the child in us and is as honest as the occasional moments of sadness that he allows also, in Boy in particular. These instances can be disheartening when witnessed, but serve to heighten the feeling of happiness when his likable characters are granted upbeat resolutions.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a highly likable odd-couple comedy that doesn’t bend the rules but rather adds a paired back country-life flavour to them, and allows wonderfully realised, uncomfortable characters to shine for the enjoyment of a very wide demographic.