Rated: PG-13 (for thematic elements including violent content, and for some language)
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Starring: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Oscar Kightley and Rhys Darby.
Genre: Action & Adventure, Comedy
“Ricky Baker: I’ll never stop running!
Paula: Yeah, and I’ll never stop chasing you – I’m relentless, I’m like the Terminator.
Ricky Baker: I’m more like the Terminator than you!
Paula: I said it first, you’re more like Sarah Connor, and in the first movie too, before she could do chinups.”
Taika Waititi has to be one of the funniest writers out there. After watching “What We Do In The Shadows”, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on his next project. That project was so clever and done so well you couldn’t help but wonder what Waititi would do next. Well here it is: “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is Waititi’s project about a misunderstood boy who winds up being fostered by a misfit couple in the New Zealand Bush. Is Wilderpeople as good as Waititi’s other films?
Ricky Baker isn’t your average kid: he likes to kick things, burn things, spit and run away, steal things and be a Menace 2 Society. After all the trouble he’s caused, he finds himself being fostered with a new family, Bella and Hector (played by Rima Te Wiata and Sam Neill). After tragedy strikes, Ricky finds out he may be transferred to another home. In response to that, Ricky (and his dog Tupac) runaway and a LITERAL manhunt ensues. The movie’s story, beat for beat, may be one of my favourite things about it. The character’s interactions: from Ricky Baker’s wannabe gangster persona with Hector’s grumpy wisedom, make for some really funny moments in the film. As the story moved through it’s pace, it doesn’t lose it’s funny bone, but adds character and emotion to the story. The film has fun with some nods to pop culture but they aren’t forced down your throat and actually make for some good chuckles. The story is about Survival and what it takes to survive, but it is also about a family coming together.
After this movie, you will want to see more of Julian Dennison (Ricky Baker). The kid feels like he really loved this character and wanted to get it right. When they start singing his birthday song, you really just want to hug him. For Sam Neill, this may be his best film in years, if not his career. He plays a tracker who is wise but dislikes dealing with Ricky. The other actors in the film do a fine job, with no one really overacting everyone else or doing better. The main standouts ARE Dennison and Neill.
The Visuals & Editing:
The visuals are great, they do a lot of cool things with the camera. There is a particular shot that I found breathtaking: the police and military find themselves at the bottom of a cliff, the jib moves and tilts upwards from where they are standing, lifting up into the sky to reveal that Ricky Baker and Hector are above them at the top of the cliff. The film is really well edited as well, making me wonder how they melded so many different shots together for one montage (you’ll understand what I mean when you see it). The film has a quick pace to it, jumping from month to month as Ricky and Hector evade the police, but it isn’t jarring.
The soundtrack to this film is pretty great, with a lot of great songs included in the mix. During production on the film, they filmed Ricky Baker’s birthday scene 11 times before realizing that the Birthday song is copywritten. So what did they do? They improvised and I couldn’t believe how catchy that song was. Nina Simone’s Sinnerman is also included in a nice montage…you know what you can’t really go wrong with the soundtrack.
I will be honest, this might be my favourite movie of the year. A film that blends well written characters, funny dialogue and emotional moments into one piece of cinema….you’ve done it again Mr.Waititi. I cannot wait to see what you’ll do with Thor Ragnarok!
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is currently available on VOD platforms and will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD on Oct. 7th, 2016.