I’ve been wanting to check this movie out for months, because I’m a huge fan of writer/director Taika Waititi (better believe I googled that). He’s made some great things so far (What We Do in the Shadows, Flight of the Conchords) and this movie proves he shows no sign of slowing down. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is one of the funniest, earnest, and heartfelt movies I’ve seen this year. It’s actually a refreshing movie to see, and made me realize how dark our current landscape of cinema actually is. Just when you think it might take a dark turn, it keeps everything surprisingly light and sincere, and that’s such a nice thing to see in a movie in 2016.
The movie opens with an foster kid named Ricky Baker getting dropped off at his new foster parents (named Uncle Hector and Aunt Bella’s) house. It’s quickly established that this kid apparently has a pretty bad attitude problem, and from there the movie never stops surprising. I don’t want to spoil much about the plot, because there’s some spoiler-ish stuff pretty early on, but the movie hardly ever does what you think it will do. I expected this kid to be a little jerk for most of the movie, and to walk all over his new foster parents, but that never happens. You realize that the child protective service woman who told her all that about Ricky isn’t a reliable narrator, and she doesn’t really even understand him, which turns out to be a crucial component to the story.
I also wanted to touch on was how great this movie was shot. Most of everything Waititi has done that I’ve seen has been a documentary-style show or movie, so it was great to see him do single camera, traditional narrative storytelling. Even though he does, he still plays with the format with chapters and titles throughout, like you’re reading a book (it just dawned on me that this was based on a book, so that explains it I guess). Aside from that, I’d say his shooting style has a lot in common with Edgar Wright mixed with Wes Anderson, but still with his own distinct flair. The choice of music (and original score) for the movie was also incredibly bold and unique (like the rest of it).
The last thing I want to talk about is how good the cast of this movie is; primarily Sam Neill as Uncle Hector and Julian Dennison as Ricky. Sam Neill is a guy I haven’t seen in much since his role in Jurassic Park, but after this movie, I don’t think I’ll ever see him as anybody other than Uncle Hec (Ricky’s reluctant foster father). Beginning the movie as a stoic, grumpy old man, Ricky bonds with Hec over the course of the movie as they adventure through the brush, and it’s one of the most convincing and honest relationships I’ve seen in a long time. Their relationship is summed up perfectly when Hector tells Ricky “She (Aunt Bella) took us in when nobody else wanted us.” Both Hector and Ricky are outsiders in this world, and even though the world doesn’t quite understand them, they always have each other.
That’s it for Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I would honestly recommend this movie for anyone, especially if you have kids (they would love it too). It’s reminded me how exciting a filmmaker Taika Waititi is, and I can’t wait to see what crazy, out-there stuff he does with Thor Ragnarok next year. If you want to check out previous reviews, hit up the ARCHIVES tab up top, and also feel free to recommend stuff for me to watch and I’ll write about it on here. As always, tell your friends about the blog and thanks for reading!