A national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush.
Taika Waititi has carved a niche for himself as one of the best comic directors around, and ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is a further example of his particular talents. This is one of the best films of the year, a film that is incredibly funny, utterly charming and moving when it needs to be with a lot to say about the father/son dynamic. Set in New Zealand, the film is about a young kid called Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) who is sent to the countryside to live with foster parents by child welfare services after he’d committed a series of juvenile crimes (depicted in a very funny montage). He bonds with his Aunt Bella, but struggles more with the cantankerous Hec (known as Uncle), played superbly by a grizzled Sam Neill, and adapting to the countryside lifestyle doesn’t come easily to him.
The film’s narrative kicks into gear when a tragedy strikes and child services decide to take Ricky back to a care home, leading to Ricky burning the barn down and running off into the bush, with his Uncle Hec in pursuit. In one of many comical developments, the authorities think Ricky’s been kidnapped by Hec and a national manhunt then ensues, with Ricky and Hec forced to work together to evade capture. The film’s premise leads to some great moments but ultimately ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is about the bond that develops between a father figure and a son, and Neill and Dennison are both so wonderfully charming together that we’re fully invested in their relationship and their situation from the start. Sam Neill’s as good as he’s been in years, whilst relative newcomer (at least to audience’s in the UK) Julian Dennison is outstanding. The slick direction underpins the good performances and this offbeat story is very well told.
Taika Waititi’s last film, the vampire mockumentary ‘What We Do in the Shadows’, was a terrifically funny take on staid material, and ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is further evidence of why he’s been tapped by Marvel to direct the latest ‘Thor’ film, ‘Ragnarok’. This is a really enjoyable, entertaining movie that had me laughing a lot, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Directed By: Taika Waititi
Starring: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rhys Darby, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Oscar Kightley and Taika Waititi