Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople ★★★½

Juvenile delinquent Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is sent by child services to live with foster carer Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her crotchety husband Hector aka 'Hec' (Sam Neill) on a remote farm in rural New Zealand.

At first city kid Ricky doesn't take to his new surroundings and attempts to run away though he doesn't get very far and soon forms a bond with the genuine and caring Bella.

But Bella drops dead suddenly leaving Hector in despair and Ricky in the lurch as child services confirm he will now have to return to a detention centre.

Ricky refuses and ineptly fakes his own suicide before going on the run into the unforgiving New Zealand bush where he is quickly tracked down by Hec who plans to return him before living a nomadic existence by himself.

Little do they know though that the authorities have completely misinterpreted the situation and believe that Hec has kidnapped his young charge and is now on the run leading to a nationwide manhunt that both are keen to evade.

Directed by Taika Waititi who has since gone on to bigger and better things, it plods along at times though maintains a lightly sanguine feel throughout and becomes more engaging as the bond between the two leads warms.

Both Julian Dennison and Neill have a convincing chemistry that is gradually developed through their mutual grieving - Ricky for a fellow foster child he was once friends with who was a victim of the system and Hec for his departed wife - and there are plenty of fun capers as they duck and dive the powers that be and encounter a few interesting characters along the way.

All underpinned by Waititi's trademark sense of humour and pop culture references it's a thoroughly enjoyable 100 mins.