Thursday, September 29, 2016

Movie Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Hunt for the Wilderpeople movie poster
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) - Written and Directed by Taika Waititi; Starring Julian Dennison, Sam Neill, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Rhys Darby.

By Kenny Howell

Taiki Waititi has carved out a pretty interesting directing career for himself.

Films like Eagle Vs. Shark, What We Do in the Shadows and the new Hunt for the Wilderpeople are very different films, but still very similar. Eagle Vs. Shark was a quirky romantic comedy, What We Do in the Shadows was a mockumentary about vampires, and this one is a charming little adventure story. They all exist in separate areas, but something Waititi brings it to them make them essentially him.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople follows the story of Ricky, a wayward youth in New Zealand who has cycled through foster homes and juvenile detention centers. He isn't really the dangerous youth he is made out to be, as much as he wants to be a gangster outlaw. He really is just a chubby little guy that has never really found the right home, and is tired of moving from place to place.

That changes when he joins the family of Bella and Hec. He finally finds that environment he likes, but unfortunately the loving Bella passes away. That leaves him in danger of going back to child services, something he desperately doesn't want to do because he loves it there.

So, he escapes into the bush and runs into Hec, who is often out there hunting or just wandering around. It's where he feels at home, but not Ricky, so the two join forces to run away from the child services that are hot on their heels. It soon becomes a manhunt for the pair that lasts several months.

It's hard to deny the infectious charm of Hunt of the Wilderpeople. That seems to be Waititi's calling card, because you can say the same of Eagle Vs. Shark and What We Do in the Shadows, or his TV work like The In-Betweeners. It's going to be interesting to see what he does with his next project, the big budget Marvel film, Thor: Ragnarok.

In Hunt For the Wilderpeople, Julian Dennison as the wannabe gangster outlaw Ricky is a perfect pairing with the hard, grizzled Hec, played by Sam Neill (The Hunter). It's the classic mismatched pair, which is an obvious trope that has been done a million times, but Waititi punches it home by making it about two men that need family. Ricky because he has never had it, and Hec because he just lost a loved one. They run into some colorful characters along the way, and all those elements just makes Hunt for the Wilderpeople a funny little adventure that is a thing all its own.

Rating: ***

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