Director Taika Waititi brings us another fun film in Hunt For The Wilderpeople, an enjoyably adventure that offers up many laugh-out-loud moments intermingled with great bonding times.
Set in chapters – as in Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump – the book it is based on, Hunt For The Wilderpeople moves quickly through this endearing coming-of-age story. Troubled 13-year-old Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), a product of having grown up in child welfare, dreams of being a ‘gangster’. After moving to a remote farm with his Aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Uncle Hec (Sam Neill), life seems like it may take a more positive tone. But tragedy strikes. Ricky is left alone with Uncle Hec, who is just not keen on being a father figure. Ricky then decides to run away into ‘the bush’ — a beautiful forest actually. Uncle Hec decides to come look for Ricky, and an unlikely, dangerous yet fun adventure ensues.
Young Ricky holds his own quite well along grumpy Uncle Hec. From the moment we see him onscreen, Ricky grabs our attention. Some poignant commentary comes across in terms of children and youth growing up in the foster care system; their broken lives and thus, broken hearts. Ricky’s haikus are simple yet moving; it’s the one way he’s learned to process his emotions. Through their outrageous journey into the wild, Rick and Uncle Hec learn plenty from each other. They are the family they each have longed to be part of.
Some people are comparing Waititi’s direction in this film to an early Wes Anderson. It is a decent comparison but Waititi’s style and humour are all his own (think of What We Do In The Shadows). Bombastic chases, dark humour, and poignantly truthful moments make Hunt For The Wilderpeople more meaningful than many other big name action or comedies out there. Definitely a film that everyone should see.
The film is currently screening in Toronto at Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas; click here for screening times.
*This review originally appeared on In The Seats