HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEEK IN MOVIES -

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.

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