Review: “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”





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Posted September 16, 2016 by

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Taika Waititi is the most exciting voice, in comedy, today. From “Flight of the Concords” to “What We Do in the Shadows”, his work has supplied both moments of deeply touching emotion and riotous laughter. His knack for blending the profound with the silly has caught the global attention, of audiences and critics alike. That style may have reached an apex, in “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”.

Ricky (Dennison) has had a rough life. He doesn’t know who his father is, his mother gave him up when he was a baby, and he has since bounced around, from one foster home to the next. Considered “A real bad egg”, for acting out in mischievous ways, he is given one last chance before being shipped off to juvie. He is taken deep into the New Zealand bush, to live with the kindhearted Bella (Wiata) and her cold grump of a husband Hec (Neill).

Bella warmly welcomes Ricky, into his new home, and immediately treats him as her own. At first, put off by her affection, Ricky attempts to run away. Soon after that failure, though, he begins to enjoy having a tender mother figure. It seems like Ricky has finally found a happy home, when tragedy strikes, and he runs away again. He makes it much deeper into the woods, this time, but is soon found by Hec, who is an experienced hunter and tracker.

wilderpeople-2A huge misunderstanding causes the government to believe that Hec has kidnapped the boy, and taken him into the woods to hide. When a manhunt ensues, Hec and Ricky decide that neither of them wants to “Go back”, and will instead live in the bush as long as they can hold out. The odd couple duo evade both predators of the forest and the authorities, while at the same time creating a bond that helps each deal with the pain they are running from.

“Wilderpeople” is funny throughout, with the help of Waititi’s charmingly oddball humor. The thing that makes it such a good movie, though, is it’s more heartfelt moments. The relationship, between Hec and Ricky, is one we have seen in film before. The hardened, grizzly, old man and the naive youngster, growing to enjoy sharing space and personal stories, with one another. Waititi paces things so well, and injects just the right amount of silliness, that this evolution is as seamless as it is sweet.

Neill gives one of his best performances of his illustrious career, and Rhys Darby pops in, to give his usual hilarious character performance. Julian Dennison is also excellent as Ricky. He strongly carries the emotion of his demanding role and matches Neill’s brilliance, in every scene they share. “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is Taika Waititi giving the film world something it needs more of: a charming story with heart and humor. It will be interesting to see how he brings his unique, likeable style to the “Thor” franchise, later this year.




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