Movie Review – Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Put on your ‘bist’ Kiwi accent and strap in for one of the funniest comedies you’ll see all year with Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Dury

Tossed from one crappy foster home to the next, 13-year-old Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a bad egg; a typical tearaway teen if ever there was one. He’s sent to live on a remote New Zealand farm owned by tender foster mum Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her cantankerous husband Hector (Sam Neill). Despite attempting to run away night after night (he barely makes it out of sight), Ricky soon finds his new home isn’t all that bad. However, one forest foray sees him and Uncle Hec stuck out in the bushland for weeks, triggering a national manhunt.

Kiwi director Taika Waititi has become something of national hero in his home country of late, with a series of delightful productions that, Lord of the Rings aside, have put New Zealand on the map. His work behind the camera on Boy and What We Do In The Shadows have earned him a cult following, and this latest harebrained comedy is destined to recruit more avid followers to his crusade.

Dennison is a comedic revelation as Ricky; a terrible troublemaker who has aspirations to be the Kiwi equivalent of 2pac. The timing on his line delivery is pretty much perfect and the youngster does more than just hold his own against seasoned actors like Neill. The two share an infectious chemistry, and Neill gives his funniest and most committed performance in years, clearly revelling at the chance to play such a fun and expressive character.

The film does dip into well-trodden tropes at times, but any narrative cul-de-sacs that Waititi encounters are niftily negotiated through his trademark energetic camerawork. Simply put, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the kind of the film that will have you rolling in the aisles, spewing laughter so loud that you’ll be struggling to hear the next six or seven gags. It’s filled with such effervescence that it scoots past any criticism you can lobby at the fairly straight-forward plot.

Soulless sceptics might tune out as the narrative strays further from the realm of possibility, but a warm script and a firm understanding of where these characters
are going keeps the film anchored.

At the end of the day, Hunt for the Wilderpeople will stir your soul just as much as it will tickle your ribs, and in an era where 90% of comedies fail to embrace the former, that’s a quality in short supply.

Hunt For The Wilderpeople is available in Australian cinemas from May 26

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment 

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