Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople ★★★½

Winning but in the same familiar way that charming English-language export comedies that relish their regional eccentricities have been since at least the '90s ("The Full Monty", "Waking Ned Devine", etc.). It's a movie that looked Pixar's "Up" right in the face and said "don't mind if I do!" A better movie would have transcended that comparison, but this is too minor an effort to set itself apart from a (great) movie it's very conspicuously similar to. It has no ambition considering it's a movie we've seen in numerous versions already, and the pretense of a couple of self-involved jerks whose rough edges get sanded down as they grow to like each other has really started to wear out its welcome in movies these days. The movie also tries somewhat self-consciously to be quirky, which doesn't always work.

Nevertheless, praise be to the cast (Sam Neill, once again shining in a role where he hates kids; young Julian Dennison; Rima te Wiata as loving Aunt Bella; and of course Rhys Darby as an endearing goofball - please make him your permanent lucky charm, Taika Waititi), to the resplendent New Zealand countryside, to the delightful grab bag of pop culture references, and to Waititi's solid comedic instincts as well as his humane spirit.

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