Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople ★★★★

Officer Andy: "We're offering ten thousand dollars to anyone who can capture them, dead or alive.
Oh. Alive. They should be alive."

Directed by Taika Waititi, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a whimsical comedic adventure starring Sam Neill and Julian Dennison. It's a hilarious ride as we follow a young boy and an old man who go venturing into the forest before the government stage a national manhunt to find them. I watched this with my friend on a rainy Saturday afternoon and had a blast. It was cool since he had lived in New Zealand and gave me a bit of insight into things that appear on-screen. New Zealand looks gorgeous.

The comedy feels distinctively Waititi, with the awkward and mundane being a typical quality of many line deliveries. When Paula from child services introduces the kid, Ricky, she gives some hilarious dialogue:

"Apparently he's a bit of a handful, a real bad egg. I mean, if you look at his file, you'll see that for yourself. We're talking disobedience, stealing, spitting, running away, throwing rocks, kicking stuff, defacing stuff, burning stuff, loitering and graffiti. And that's just the stuff we know about."

Her delivery is so deadpan as she drones on and on; it becomes absurdly humourous. Taika's dialogue is so earnest, but because of its absurdity, it becomes weirdly funny.

Throughout the film, these impressive long takes show time passing as Ricky and Hec traverse the woods. It has them doubling up as the camera pans from left to right continuously, as they travel further into the wilderness. I can only recall two shots. But in the second, it starts with them trudging along, gazing somewhere off-screen. And as it progresses, more people appear. We get the "ninjas", Paula, Officer Andy, and the hunters as they search for our beloved duo. The editors string together these shots with many elements as they glide across the screen seamlessly.

Ricky Baker: "I'll never stop running!"
Paula: "Yeah, and I'll never stop chasing you - I'm relentless; I'm like the Terminator."
Ricky Baker: "I'm more like the Terminator than you!"
Paula: "I said it first, you're more like Sarah Connor, and in the first movie too before she could do chin-ups."

Ricky and Hec become unexpected friends. They begin with clashing personalities. But as they get past trials of cooperation, survival and friendship, they grow close, and it's endearing. I'm surprised how I became so invested in these characters. But with enough character moments fueled by their conflicts, the film grounds and fleshes them out organically. The two are members of an apathetic society who've left them fighting for their survival and freedom. Both were born out of tragedy but in the end, help each other keep living.

Ricky Baker: [reading wanted poster] "'Faulkner is Caucasian' - well, they got that wrong because you're obviously white."

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an amusing adventure with Taika's distinctive comedic flair. It shows the humour found within tragedy and is earnest to show humanity at their most awkward and vulnerable. It shows New Zealand in all its majestical glory and an endearing friendship that grows through its conflict, comedy and fine filmmaking. I recommend this film to fans of Waititi, New Zealand cinema and awkward earnest comedies.

It's funny how Sam Neill plays another man who hates kids but grows to like them after getting to know some. Also, I love that Lord of the Rings reference.

Hec: "Me and this fat kid / We ran we ate and read books / And it was the best."

SCORE: 8/10

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