HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE
Director: Taika Waititi (Boy) Starring: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rhys Darby, Taika Waititi Verdict: It’s all here. Why look anywhere else? THERE is a rare strain of comedy movie that wields a light common touch with intensely irresistible power. An audience can immediately sense magic is afoot, and happily locks in for the long haul, no questions asked.
The Australian grass-roots hits The Castle and Kenny are the best localised examples of this unique effect, and they now have company from across the Tasman in the unassuming, yet utterly charming form of Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Already a monster hit at home in New Zealand, this deceptively quaint feelgood comedy-adventure instantly finds an arresting storytelling groove that cannot help but win you over.
It is, without doubt, one of the best films that will be released in 2016.
This is the story of a 13-year-old force of nature named Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison). This laidback lump of a lad has had a difficult upbringing to say the least, having been bounced from institutional care facilities to foster homes and back again for much of his life so far.
As the film begins, Ricky has been given one last shot at living amid a caring household environment on a remote North Island farm. If he stuffs it up, this good-natured bad boy is guaranteed to be placed in juvenile detention until he turns 18.
It initially looks as if fate has finally cut Ricky some slack. The country way of life seems to agree with the former city slicker.
However, fate was just tricking little Ricky into a false sense of security. For reasons best not revealed here, Ricky and his principal guardian, a grouchy old coot named Hec (Sam Neill), are forced to go bush and live off the land. The authorities do not take kindly to news of the duo’s sudden disappearance, and a marathon manhunt begins to bring the fledgling fugitives back to polite society.
Thanks to some well-placed twists, turns and detours, the epic journey of Hec and Ricky will have viewers of all ages both leaning forward intently and laughing heartily from go to whoa. While the pair continually cross paths with a strange array of eccentric friends and foes, it is the ever-evolving bond between young Ricky and old Hec that truly lifts Hunt for the Wilderpeople to such a high standard.
For this, all plaudits must go to the two lead actors. Dennison isn’t chiming in with a typical ‘child-star’ performance in any shape or form. The kid has a unique sense of timing, great screen presence and a shrewd sense of when a scene is his for the taking.
An experienced hand like Neill knows better than to get in the way of such a raw talent seizing the moment so perfectly, but still finds a way to leave his own indelible mark on events.