Thursday, September 15, 2016

[Review] Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Over the past few years, New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi has quietly been pumping out under-appreciated indie gems like Boy and What We Do in the Shadows. And now, before the buzzworthy writer-director makes the big Marvel blockbuster leap with next year's Thor: Ragnarok, he gives us the hilarious and majestical romp that is Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

Donning an "All Eyez On Me" jacket, Ricky (Julian Dennison), a foster kid who's "a bit of a handful" moves onto a farm to stay with the caring aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and the cantankerous uncle Hec (Sam Neill). Just as Ricky gets settled in, sudden tragedy strikes. So, with child services threatening to take Ricky back, he and Hec run off into the woods while a national manhunt ensues.

The film is exotically shot under vibrant sunlight amidst scenic views of the New Zealand countrysides, green forests, and sublime horizons. It even exhibits some Wes Anderson-esque whimsy with the glorified zoom-ins and still shots of quirky mundanities. There's a constant thread of wonderfully dry humor weaved in throughout, whether it's the chuckle-worthy dialogue and deadpan deliveries ("Tupac's this really cool rapper and he's like my best friend.") or the madcap sight gags. Ricky is a straight-up amusing little big fella, especially as he plays foil to Hec's stone-faced reticence. Dennison and Neill (Jurassic Park) both yield greatly endearing performances.

Given the film's effervescent and freewheeling nature, it's only fitting that the over-the-top events are splashed with a spunky and versatile soundtrack of plucky folk songs and rollicking synth scores. And as wildly fun as the story is (you'll love the overt Lord of the Rings tribute), the script also makes sure to hug at the heart as Ricky and Hec's inevitable bonds come to fruition, most notably during an affectionate conversation presented in one of the later chapters.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a sweet coming-of-age adventure about finding a sense of belonging in unlikely places. Go on the hunt for this rare film, because it's one of the year's best.

* 9/10 *

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  1. Just heard about this film. Your review, so beautifully written, makes this a must see for me!😃

  2. Mate, this has got to be one of my favourites from 2016 so far. It's STILL showing in cinemas here and it came out in May! Definitely going to have to give it another spin before it leaves theatres :) Great review!