Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople ★★★½

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

This is the third Kiwi film I've seen over the past couple of years (the second one directed by Taika Waititi) and I've enjoyed them all quite a bit. The three were completely different films, but at the same time they handle a similar style of comedy. It's not a comedic tone that will appeal to everyone, but it has worked very well for me. Waititi had previously directed the vampire mocumentary, What We Do in the Shadows, probably my favorite Kiwi film of all time. The other New Zealand movie I had seen was the horror comedy Housebound which also starred Rima Te Wiata who has a smaller role in this film. Waititi has managed to direct another critically beloved film and it has expanded and resonated with audiences from all over the globe. Despite having a lot of local humor and references to other Kiwi movies, it also pays homage to blockbuster films such as Rambo, The Lord of the Rings, Terminator 2 and many others which are all mentioned in the dialogue so it appeals to a wider audience. The climatic scene also reminded me of Thelma and Louise, but the overall plot is basically a remake of Pixar's Up (grumpy old man and chubby child exploring the wilderness).

Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a twelve year old boy who has been in and out of several foster families and has had trouble fitting in. The latest home to accept him is that of a sweet lady named Bella (Rima Te Wiata) who lives in a farm in the New Zealand bush with her grumpy husband Hec (Sam Neill). Uncle Hec doesn't seem to care much for Ricky, but Aunt Bella is as sweet and nice as any mother could be to their child. After a tragic accident, Hec and Ricky flee across the beautiful wild bush while the police and childcare service go after them. Ricky and Hec have to put their differences behind them and learn to live together in the open wilderness while being hunted by the authorities.

Well, this actually isn't an Up remake, but rather a Barry Crump novel adaptation, but there are several common themes beyond the similarities between the two protagonists. The young kid and grumpy old man pairing isn't new, but the way this story is told feels fresh. It's not the first time Sam Neill plays a character who isn't afraid to hide his disdain towards children (Jurassic Park comes to mind). Waititi uses these common elements very wisely to appeal to our senses, but at the same time gives the road trip tale an original touch by adding his unique style of comedy and delivering several funny and heartwarming moments between the two leads. The script is very well written and the cinematography looks beautiful thanks to the open wilderness where most of the story takes place. The film also makes the best use of haikus that you will see in any movie. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is further proof that Kiwi films are growing towards international audiences, and that Waititi is set for the task of directing the upcoming Thor sequel which I think will benefit from his style of humor.

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