I have been eager to see Hunt for the Wilderpeople ever since hearing Taika Watiti – director of the fantastic What We Do In The Shadows had a new film coming out before Thor: Ragnarok next year. And safe to say my expectations did not disappoint. A buddy movie of a mismatched pair are hiding in the New Zealand bush, what’s not to love?
The film follows Ricky (Julian Dennison), palmed off to a remote location by child services. He doesn’t really want to be there, the bush is not really a place for him, seeing as he faints at the sight of Aunty Bella (Rima Te Wiata) killing a pig. But he soon settles in and gives up on his attempts to escape. However, tragedy strikes Ricky’s attempts to settle in and he is off on the run, escaping to the bush along with Uncle Hec (Sam Neill), Bella’s gruff and grizzly husband, and his dog Tupac.
Divided into chapters featuring a bearded Waititi, a crazy Rhys Darby, shit getting real and a wild car chase, Hunt for the Wilderpeople has the perfect combination of comedy mixed in with some rather touching moments.
While Neill is the tough, rough old man with a loving heart you want as your own uncle, Dennison is the shining star. A ‘real bad egg’, Ricky wants to be a gangster, yet is just a big kid at heart, yearning for emotional support and security. With Neill’s Hec, he forms a wonderful, if dysfunctional, double act, and has a effortless comic timing with pop culture references left, right and centre.
While the pairing of a young, upbeat kid and a old, irritable old man might be something of a cliché, Neill and Dennison, with Waititi whip smart writing, give it a fresh take. There are some heartwarming moments that might bring a tear to your eye, and then scenes that where you’ll crack your ribs from laughter.
Full of wit and charm, this film is a highlight of the year, one of my favourites so far. Definitely ‘majestical’.