I posted the trailer for this movie a couple weeks ago. And you know what? It was worth the trip when I went to go see it.
The Hunt for the Wilderpeople opens with New Zealand’s child services dropping young Ricky Barnes (Julian Dennison) off at a farm in the middle of nowhere. He’s been in and out of foster homes most of his life, and he’s told this is his last chance. The woman of the house, Bella (Rima Te Wiata), is warm and welcoming. Her husband Hec (Sam Neill) not so much. And though Ricky runs away the first night, he doesn’t get very far and Bella brings him back. Soon, he and Bella are bonding while Hec stays as distant as he can.
Then Bella dies suddenly and child services has to come get Ricky because they can’t for whatever reason leave him in a home with no woman. Hec doesn’t seem much interested in keeping the boy, so Ricky (badly) fakes his own death and makes a run for it into the Bush with some stuff he swiped from the house and his loyal dog, Tupac. Hec finds him, since Hec is something of a Bushman, and then through a series of accidents the two have to stay out in the wild for a period.
That’s when the authorities have decided that Hec kidnapped Ricky.
This movie is a real low key charmer. Neill is fantastic, silently channeling the hurt, frustration, and eventual concern for young Ricky through his eyes. Dennison himself does a fine job as a wannabe gangsta who learns to live off the land. Neither are particularly well-regarded by the greater society for different reasons, and the penalty should the two get caught is more or less the same for both of them. Writer-director Taika Waititi does some good work, with some nice visual flourishes and even a good action scene tossed in. He cameos here as a hapless minister making bizarre homilies, and his next assignment being Thor: Ragnarok, I’d say a certain Thunder God is in good hands.
This was just a fun little comedy. I’m giving eight and a half nonexistent jetpacks out of ten.
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