Due to the overproduction of indie movies featuring rebellious teenagers I almost gave up on the genre and missed Hunt for the Wilderpeople. However, every now and then, I would check whether there have been some new developments. And although this movie’s about a kid and not a teenager, I would still put it in the same category. There hasn’t been a movie like this in my recent memory where I would laugh so much and love everything about it up to a certain point. Hunt for the Wilderpeople, at least for me, falls apart in the final third. Especially when compared to that phenomenal beginning. Beginning that was so dark, funny, and engaging that it earned him a review here. I know, what a prestigious place.
I should also add that this is from a perspective of a grown man, and maybe we should judge this movie based on the impact it could have on a young mind. Based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump which’s much darker than the adaptation, this is a story of a young troublemaker and his life as a member of a strange foster family. One of the things that I loved about this movie, apart from the heart-warming atmosphere was character development. From the foster parents to our incredibly adorable protagonist, everyone was just awesome. They were very authentic and more importantly real, something that’s a must when you’re making a movie like this.
The cinematography was also phenomenal along with snappy editing that tried to keep the atmosphere going. Set in New Zealand, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is full of shots of beautiful and picturesque landscapes. From forests to lush plains, everything looked dreamy. It’s no wonder that this is the place where Lord of the Rings was shot. Nature is a key ingredient in this movie, especially since most of it is happening in the wild or a secluded farm in the middle of this piece of heaven.
Meet Ricky, a young delinquent who’s constantly getting in trouble and getting on the nerves of its foster families. His mother is not in the picture and he’s been moving from one foster family to another. Moving until he finally ended up on a farm run by Bella and Hec, two outcasts who are basically living off the grid. This is a true shock to the system for our young Ricky and as soon as he got there, he started plotting his escape…
Directed by Taika Waititi, who garnered world fame with his off-beat comedy What We Do in the Shadows two years earlier, the problem that I had with this movie was the connection to the characters and the story in the later segments of it. The base material is pretty brutally realistic and emotionally impactful, especially since it is so easy to love the characters. And the concepts explored in some of the early scenes are so well-thought-out that you wish the movie would continue in this direction infinitely. As Ricky tries to adjust to a new reality that includes domestic animals, house-work, and many other things he didn’t know about while living in the big city, the story is slowly setting us up for something bigger.
Quirky transitions and the fact that the movie is divided into chapters hampers the flow and the general atmosphere. And this only intensifies as time goes on. Starring Sam Neill, Rima Te Wiata, and young Julian Dennison as Ricky, the casting was spot on. Sam had an incredibly strong performance and Rima was so likable and charming that you wish she adopted you. However, the star of this movie is Julian as the wanna-be thug from the New Zealand hood. This is his break-out role and I hope we will see a lot of him in the future years.
In the end, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a nice and heartwarming movie. You will like it if for nothing else than for its honesty. And if you like it, maybe you should check out Taika’s two previous movies Eagle vs Shark and Boy. Mostly because they explored similar themes. Enjoy.
Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Taika Waititi, Barry Crump, Te Arepa Kahi
Cast: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Oscar Kightley, Stan Walker
Fun Facts: All of the news presenters in the film were actual news presenters on New Zealand TV.