Directed by Taika Waititi
Written by Taika Waititi & Barry Crump
Starring Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House & Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne
Feature running time: 1 hour and 41 minutes
UK Release Date: 16th September 2016
A national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush. (Source: IMDB)
In Taika Watiti’s follow-up to the darkly funny mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows two years before; he’s delivered again with a really funny, charming and heart warming bundle of joy. Given the right injection of comedy, drama, action and an ingenious use of movie references ranging from LOTR to The Terminator, this film follows a linear narrative that is separated into ten different chapter titles that relate directly to the turning points of the plot.
That plot revolves around Ricky Baker (Dennison), a mischievous young troublemaker who goes through his life vandalising property, stealing, throwing rocks and loitering. After going from foster home to foster home, the local child welfare authorities have exhausted all options and place him into the care of Aunt Bella and Uncle Hector (Wiata and Neill) on their farm as a last final resort. While there, he attempts to escape several times but without much luck. Its not long before he warms to Aunt Bella and settles into his new home. Happiness for Ricky doesn’t stay around for long though when tragedy strikes, enforcing the child welfare in making demands to take Ricky back into their custody. Not having any of it, he decides to fake his own death and make a runner for it deep into the woods. He’s soon joined by Uncle Hec and together, they leave their past behind them and make a break for it. Its here that they develop a close bonding relationship that they never had before when surviving out in the neck of the woods.
Neill and Dennison really play off each other incredibly well with their witty one liners and fantastic on-screen chemistry, its the main reason why this movie works like a magical charm and is such a delight to see. As they try their best efforts to remain one step ahead of not being caught, they quickly find themselves as missing people to a national police manhunt. They bump into other memorable characters along the way on their travels including an hilarious scene involving three local hunters who mistake Hec as being a pervert and stumbling across a paranoid conspiracy nutcase living out in the wild who calls himself ‘Psycho Sam’.
All in all, this was a really entertaining buddy chase film that was the most fun I had watching since ‘Midnight Run’. I love how it had a real ‘Thelma and Louise’ vibe towards the end too. You’ll know what I mean when you watch it. Amidst all the character bonding, excitement and comedy value; there were some pretty deep emotional moments too, making the film quite bittersweet at times.
I had to wait a good while after everyone else I knew to see this, felt like an agonising eternity truth be told. This is another worthwhile independently made film that receives the cruel and unfair limited release treatment across nationwide cinemas. Luckily, I can always trust my indie cinema I actively volunteer at to always show these kinds of passionate and meaningful film-making. However, saying that, my viewing of this movie after taken into account the high expectations I had for it were somewhat damaged and diminished on the basis of so many people saying its the best film of the year, easily in my top ten etc. The only thing I can think of, of why so many would praise it in such high esteem really just boils down to in a year where we’ve had so many failures at the box office, an underrated gem finally comes along and reminds you just how much fun you can have at the cinema.
Besides letting other people’s verdicts disappoint me slightly, Hunt For The Wilderpeople is still a wonderful and charming film that never failed in it’s main responsibility to make me smile and laugh. It also makes me wonder why we don’t get to see as much of Sam Neill in movies as we should. Such a fantastic actor. WE NEED MORE SAM NEILL ON OUR BIG SCREENS DAMMIT!!