Hunt For The Wilderpeople review: Taika Waititi balances his humour well, but is never afraid to crank it up in this wonderful coming of age tale.
Hunt For The Wilderpeople review by Luke Ryan Baldock, September 2016.
Taika Waititi has certainly made some waves over the last 6 years. 2010 saw the release of the celebrated Boy, and in 2014 he gave us one of the best and funniest comedies of all time in the brilliant vampire mockumentary What We Do In the Shadows. Considering he is currently shooting Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok, the man has certainly come a long way from directing episodes of Flight of the Concords and being the unnecessary comedic sidekick in Green Lantern. Hunt for the Wilderpeople demonstrates just why Waititi is so damn talented, as he creates an emotional story of bonding and growing up, while being all out hilarious.
Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) has been passed around foster carers and is on his final warning by Social Services’ Paula (Rachel House). He finds himself in the care of Bella (Rima Ti Wiata), and her mysterious and distant husband Hec (Sam Neill). Living far up in the mountains of the countryside, Ricky’s attempts to runaway are futile at best, and he soon takes a shine to the place. But when it looks as though Ricky may have to be relocated, he makes for the wild, pursued by the less than enthusiastic Hec. After hurting his ankle, Hec and Ricky look set to spend weeks surviving in the wilderness, not realising that the authorities, lead by Paula, have amassed a search party fearing an abduction.
Dennison is the heart of the film and proves to be an incredible newcomer with amazing comic talent. We understand his behaviour is most likely the result of boredom and not fitting in, so as he grows and finds his course in life it is a genuinely powerful and uplifting tale to behold. Neill plays the cratchety old man part very well, and his dry delivery is the perfect counterpart for Ricky’s more childish sensibilities. Wiata uses her verbal diarrhea demonstrated in previous films such as Housebound to bring endearment and big laughs, while House plays the authoritarian role with such conviction that her absurdity is convincing and hilarious.
Waititi balances his humour well, but is never afraid to crank it up. The film starts as mostly a witty adventure with funny one-liners, but by the end there is almost parody levels of exaggeration. Paula employs far more resources than she needs, or would be allowed, and the music and pacing begins to mimic an 80s action film. Rambo with a synth score. This all plays against some incredible visuals in terms of location (it is New Zealand after all), but also nice additions to bring certain sequences alive. One sees a rotating shot, while characters interact over time. This seems to be done all in camera with doubles, rather than splicing footage together.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople really excels thanks to its charm and heart. We care about Ricky and Hec’s plight, as well as wanting them to get along. There are exceptionally well handled emotional twists that capture tragedy in its most hurtful form, that being how sudden it can hit, but there’s always a good laugh of inspiring moment just around the corner. It’s a magical and powerful experience that harkens back to films such as Stand By Me, that capture growing up (no matter what your age), while also being filled with laughs, hope, and friendship.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople review by Luke Ryan Baldock, September 2016.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is released in UK cinemas from 16th September.