Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople ★★★½

Entertaining as it is, Taika Waititi’s filmmaking is tonally rather flat. It is equivalent to an amplifier with a single high-gain channel and all the knobs fixed squarely at eleven, which is definitely useful in certain types of music, but offers absolutely zero versatility.

This pretty much encompasses my main problem with Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Waititi’s follow-up to the irreverent What We Do In The Shadows. While his approach to storytelling and obsessive insistence on retaining the idiosyncratic comedic atmosphere all throughout the film worked wonders in the context of a faux documentary about vampires flat-sharing in Wellington, it doesn’t apply to this story; at least not completely. Without a doubt, this film has a good handful of genuinely funny and comedically inventive conceits, but Waititi’s lack of subtlety completely undercuts any opportunity where the story asks for honesty in order to flesh out its characters a bit better. If I wanted to be a bit provocative and maybe somewhat insincere, this is where I would posit that this was perhaps the very reason why Waititi was allowed to direct Thor: Ragnarok; after all, I have been lamenting for a while now the fact any attempt at character development or any dramatic depth in a Marvel film is almost always immediately undercut by humour. But I don’t think that’s the case. It may be as simple as Marvel producers noticing how Waititi handles levity and drawing a parallel between him and Joss Whedon.

As to the actual film, however, I have to say that I had a reasonably good time with it despite the fact I was being occasionally annoyed with Waititi’s comedy being at odds with the natural tendencies of the story at hand. Hunt For The Wilderpeople is an interesting feel-good story about friendship that, haphazardly at times, smuggles some earnestness underneath its overwhelming drive to keep the audience laughing.

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