Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople ★★★★

”I didn't choose the skuxx life, the skuxx life chose me.”

Taika Waititi is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most off-kilter and outgoing voices working in the indie sphere today. His third directorial effort, the magnificent mockumentary ’What We Do In the Shadows', saw the cineaste gain an international projection he hadn’t had until that point in time; this albeit the fact that his two previous films had already been well-reviewed, even if with little exposure. Hunt for the Wilderpeople finds Waititi at his most eccentric, and quite frankly, at his most brilliant. It’s an oddity of a film but an absolute delight to see unfold. Wilderpeople cements Waititi as a talent to keep an eye on for the future.

Clever, whimsical writing and a unique visual signature are Taika’s most distinct assets. His sensibilities and idiosyncrasies are unmistakable, the same way Edgar Wright’s or Wes Anderson’s imprints are one of a kind. Taika’s vision is the spine of his films. They have a unique DNA.

The way he’s able to play with the absurd and subvert it to comical effect is absolute genius and you see that a lot in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. He presents a plotline that’s unmistakably far-fetched and folly without jeopardizing the film’s emotional core. He offers a mad ride that’s nonetheless true at heart. Here we have the tale of a fat kid and his foster father and how they run away from the popo for five months in the middle of one of New Zealand’s forests. Throughout this journey we see pigs getting slaughtered, fake bodies being burn, a white man be mistaken for an Asian and the whole army chasing a 13 year old. But in the midst of such zaniness, there’s also plenty or warmth and feeling to this coming of age tale.

Much of Wilderpeople’s success is due to Taika’s quirky, but precise, storytelling qualities, but one must not forget the actors who carry the film on their backs. On one hand we have Julian Dennison, an unheralded newcomer, and on the other, we have veteran star Sam Neill. The off-and-on playful provocations and harasses between the two of them are fundamental. Not only do they provide the film a lighter tone but they emphasize the genuine chemistry the two actors share. Dennison's instinct for comedic timing surprises – as he plays a character that’s both a true blood skuxx and a cute chubby kid – and Neill on that same note awes with a phenomenal comeback performance.

Taika’s work is so wonderfully bizarre and consistent that I can’t help but to be quite enthusiastic about his next feature film – even if it is a standalone Thor installment. Even my brain can’t process the fact that I’m a bit excited to see the sequel to one of the least captivating superheroes in the Marvel Universe. It will be interesting to see how Taika does his transition from a 2.5 million dollar indie project to a biblical-sized 250 million dollar monster of a blockbuster. Let’s pray that he’s able to maintain his wit and heart. His short ’Team Thor’ sure shows promise!