Hunt for the WilderpeopleCultureCinemaMovie reviews
Based on the 1986 novel Wild Pork and Watercress by the late New Zealand author Barry Groom, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a family-oriented, action-packed, comedy drama directed by Taika Waititi. It tells the story of a 13-year-old Maori boy named Ricky (Julian Dennison) who, after years of moving from foster home to foster home, is placed with Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill), a middle-aged couple that lives out in the middle of the New Zealand bush.
Initially averse to his new surroundings and frequently attempting to run away, Ricky is eventually warmed by Bella’s kindness; however, upon her sudden (and unexplained) death, the boy is informed by authorities that he will be relocated once again, especially as Hec doesn’t want him around. Frightened of ending up in a juvenile prison, he escapes into the vast wilderness. Once Hec, an experienced bushman, locates him, the pair end up trekking through the dangerous forests when they find out that they are both being hunted by the police.
The film – shrewdly directed by Waititi (currently working on Thor: Ragnarok) – is the up-and-coming filmmaker’s new major work after the success of his hilarious mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, and this latest effort aptly showcases his talent for blocking action sequences. He has also evoked engaging performances from the principle cast: Dennison pulls of a sincere turn as the Tupac-loving street kid turned action-hero without any of the often seen jarring precociousness seen in child actors. Neill is wonderfully gruff as Hec, and Rachel House as Paula, the overly ambitious child welfare officer, is also a lot of fun, both crafting efficiently nuanced performances.
The screenplay, written by Waititi, is both heart-warming and funny, offering up several laugh-out-loud moments. The result, though, ultimately fails to thoroughly convince its audience, especially towards its cartoonish ending – too exaggerated for adults, but with a humour that’s too sophisticated for kids. As a result, viewers will probably choose to watch the more visually appealing superhero movies over this curious, yet sweet-natured tale.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is released nationwide on 16th September 2016.
Watch the trailer for Hunt for the Wilderpeople here: