If, like me, you are looking for a respite from all of the big, vacuous, summer movie dreck, then I can’t recommend a movie more than this one. Hunt For The Wilderpeople is lots of refreshing fun that should offer a kind of reset button for the rest of the summer that will surely have you exasperated again in no time. Ok, we hope it doesn’t turn out that way, but not a lot is looking promising.
Hunt For The Wilderpeople stars Sam Neill and relative newcomer Julian Dennison. Neill plays foster father, Hec, to kid Julian’s Ricky, as they become the subject of a national manhunt in the wild New Zealand bush.
Ricky is a bit of a problem kid. He’s been from one foster home to the next. Last chance is here at Hec and his wife Bella’s house. Ok, fostering Ricky was really Bella’s idea based on her enormous heart. Hec is sort of gruff and likes to keep to himself, mostly. He begrudgingly shares time with Ricky.
But after an untimely tragedy some weeks later, Ricky decides to move on again, by way of wandering off into the bush. Hec finds him, and then, due to an over zealous social worker, authorities are alerted that Ricky is missing along with his foster father. An injured ankle and various encounters with people end up in more misunderstandings, and then even more people searching for the two mis-matched pair.
Hunt for The Wilderpeople is a funny, surprisingly energetic classic mis-understanding comedy/chase film. Sam Neill and Julian Dennison make a great team, and the supporting cast is chock full o’fun.
There are scenes that are somewhat intense, though. This film doesn’t dumb down certain realities of living in the New Zealand bush for extended periods of time, nor does it shy away from its’ dangers. Point is; this isn’t really a kids film, despite feeling at times like a family film. Do not take your kids to this until they’re a bit older. I think the PG-13 rating is actually appropriate here.
The script is funny and the characters engaging and believable, even in light of the nature of the comic material. Thankfully, you are given time to care about everyone here, and no one is truly left as a two-dimensional being. With all of the bloated summer blockbusters missing most of their marks this year, this is a welcome change. A film that concentrates on script and character is a rewarding way to spent an hour and 47 minutes.
The best thing here? I laughed with genuine mirth. This is a funny film, and directed by Taika Waititi, who directed Eagle vs Shark, some Flight of the Concords episodes, What We Do In The Shadows, and is currently shooting the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok for Marvel. Waititi also wrote the screenplay for Hunt For The Wilderpeople, based on Barry Crump’s book.
I’m in for at least a whopping four kittenhands for Hunt For The Wilderpeople. Fun, refreshing, and worth your time. It’s doesn’t need to be on the big screen, but it doesn’t hurt to support good films with your theater dollars.
~ Neil T Weakley, your average movie-goer, sometimes needing a little movie perspective in the summer.