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Review: Hunt For The Wilderpeople – “Simply put, go see it.”


Following on from his excellent last film What We Do In The Shadows, director Taika Waititi is back with this hilarious and heartfelt comedy, Hunt For The Wilderpeople.

This adaptation of the Barry Crump book Wild Pork and Watercress follows Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) an unruly orphan who has been passed around countless foster carers due to his bad behaviour. In a final attempt to find him a home, social worker Paula (Rachel House) sends him to a life in the country with Aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Uncle Hec (Sam Neill). As they all begin to forge a new life together on the farm Bella tragically passes away. Uncle Hec’s response is to go native and head into the bush, Ricky not wanting to go to another new foster home follows. When social services turn up finding everyone has gone they assume Ricky has been kidnapped and take up chase.

The Screenplay written by director Waititi brings some hilarious moments. It’s a take on the classic buddy movie and is reminiscent of Pixar’s Up, Thelma and Louise with a bit of Rambo. Its flair is in the off beat comedy and for those in doubt it really is funny. However it manages a good balance between the sillier moments and the central story without being overly sentimental. As the film progresses things do get more outlandish but it is always grounded by the characters and the exploration of the dynamic between a gruff wildness man and the kid from the city. It can get you from crying laughing to getting a lump in your throat.

The films quirky humour and outlandishness is all held together by the brilliant performances of the two key players. Sam Neill effortlessly brings the gruff Uncle Hec to life, delivering laughs whilst still being able to delve into the more vulnerable elements of the character. Credit must go to Julian Dennison, a relative newcomer. He is fantastic as city kid Ricky. Funny, endearing and naive, he is never seems out of place next to experienced actor Neill. The dynamic relationship between the two means you to totally invest in them both, two alienated people who have more in common than they think.

The supporting cast is just as good but are on the more eccentric side. Rachel House is amusing as the social worker hunting them down, who “never leaves a child behind”. There is also an appearance from previous collaborator Rhys Darby as a tinfoil hatted conspiracy nut, whilst the director himself plays a vicar with a particularly enjoyable sermon.

The film takes every opportunity to show off the sumptuous New Zealand landscape and the cinematography of the wilderness is stunning. Overall Hunt for the Wilderpeople also has quite a retro  feel, there are slow zooms and fades similar to 80s films and the soundtrack is mostly synths. There is also a particular birthday song in a scene that had me literally crying with laughter.

Overall the film is funny, quirky, well-acted yet heartfelt and touching. I think I actually love this film and It is definitely is in my list of the best films of the year. Simply put, go see it.


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