Ryster’s review published on Letterboxd:
Here's the thing with Hunt for the Wilderpeople, it's a quirky, lighthearted fun movie. It's been a while since I've seen something like this. I'm struggling to put my thoughts into words. It feels like Wes Anderson but then again it doesn't. This ends up being like nothing you think it would be. I expected a quiet and profound dramedy (I stayed away from the trailer and I hadn't heard anything about it, I only saw the poster and read a few reviews), so I was very surprised when I saw what I saw. I haven't gotten around to Taika Waititi's previous film but I've heard about the comedy that's presented there and it's the same here. This film gets quite absurd at times but I couldn't stop laughing. It reminded me of action films from the 80s weirdly and there's a lot of references to those movies. First Blood is just one example. Saying that, it's quite an action packed movie but it's not an action movie. Waititi has made a film that is so much, it's a family film, a thriller, an action movie, I'd even say there's a bit of horror thrown in there. You'd think that it would run off track but it doesn't.
Ricky Baker is a young kid that's a bit of a rebel. He's transported from home to home in search of foster parents but has gotten a reputation. He runs away, steals, causes damage, everything you can think of he's probably done. When he turns up to his new 'home' he continues this trend but he suddenly warms to his carers. Tragedy strikes however and Ricky and his new uncle are thrown into the wilderness.
Sam Neill gives one of his best performances here. People are saying that this is the best he's been since Jurassic Park, I say he might be better. He's constantly funny and quickly becomes likeable. He plays an experienced hunter type that gets thrown into a situation with a teen that adores rap and believes he's a gangster. Their chemistry is outstanding. Julian Dennison plays that teenager named Ricky Baker and he does steal the show. To begin with I didn't know how I'd feel about him but I soon warmed up to him and thought he did a great job. He's a very funny character and for most of the film is a likeable character. There's a thing that happens in the third act which slightly dwindled how much I liked him but he soon recovers with the personality he brings to the character.
The story does go big. I wasn't expecting anything like what happens. It starts off small but as soon as the two characters are in the middle of nowhere it gets larger and larger until it becomes a war movie. The film also gets quite dark at times. One scene that reminds me of The Revenant and a scene near the start involving the killing of an animal change the tone of the film slightly but not by a lot. There's still a light, jokey sense throughout these scenes. It's a comedy, offbeat but still a laugh out loud comedy. I didn't find the film boring but I will admit that it's surprisingly slow at times. The direction by Taika Waititi was great and I loved the tone of the film. The cinematography is excellent. The scenery looks beautiful and there's fantastic shots which show a passing in time. The soundtrack is also fantastic. The ending is great and fun. It's over the top but in a good way. Then that one thing happens and I just thought it was quite unnecessary. It lessened how much I liked a character, made me sorry for another and nearly ruined an otherwise excellent comedy. It does redeem itself before the credits roll but for that small amount of time I was a bit disappointed. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a smartly crafted comedy. It weaves genres seamlessly and will have something the whole family can enjoy. Sam Neill gives one of the best performances of his career. Definitely worth a watch.