The Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
Directed by Taika Waititi
Starring: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rema Te Wiata, Rachel House
13-year old Ricky Baker is a real bad egg. In an effort to keep him out of juvenile detention, Child Services sends him to a remote New Zealand farm to foster with the kind-hearted, cat-sweater wearing Aunt Bella and her cantankerous husband, Uncle Hec. After attempting to run away several times, but never getting far and always returning for breakfast, Ricky decides that the farm isn’t that bad a place. He even gets his own dog and the most fantastic birthday song ever. Really, that damn song is infectious. When tragedy strikes, Ricky is scheduled to be taken back to a group home in the city. Ricky fakes his “death” and runs into the bush, only to be found quite easily by Hec. Through a series of mishaps – their brief stay in the bush turns into weeks and Hec is accused of abducting Ricky, sparking a nationwide manhunt for the two “wilderpeople”.
Just about everything! This film is charming, funny, sweet and completely endearing. The performances, particularly from Sam Neill as Hec and Julian Dennison as Ricky, are outstanding. This is the best performance I’ve seen from Neill in a very long time. Dennison is a wonder, effectively showing that underneath all the pouty-lips and sass is a kid who loves books, hot water bottles and composing Haiku. As with most Waititi moves, there is no lack of quirky side characters: Sweet Aunt Bella , who can kill a wild boar using nothing but a small knife; Terminator-like social worker Paula, who doesn’t quite get the whole “no child left behind” thing; “Psycho” Sam…..and his bush; and Waititi himself, showing up as a minister whose here to let us know what’s behind another door (hint: it isn’t vegetables). The directing is spot on. Taika Waititi is known for his quirky, small features. His previous works include Eagle vs Shark, Boy and the incredibly wonderful What We Do in the Shadows. Waititi’s next project is Thor: Ragnarok and I will be curious to see how he moves from small, intimate films like this one to the big-budget of Marvel. The soundtrack is amazing – and you WILL be singing the Ricky Baker song when you leave the theater. You will.
I can’t find anything bad to say about this film. I loved it. There is the very minor quibble that, even after 5 months in the bush, Ricky doesn’t seem to lose weight. But then, they are eating plenty of wildlife and junk food stolen from hiker retreats, so maybe that isn’t out of the ordinary. This is just a really well-made, well-acted, great film
There were all of five people in the theater when I went to see this. On a Friday night. Films like this need your support. The big blockbusters will be there next week – chances are this won’t. GO SEE THIS FILM!