Taika Waititi’s Hunt For The Wilderpeople: A Review by Nate Hill 

Taika Waititi’s Hunt For The Wilderpeople speaks to the lost boy in all of us, tweaks our sense of humour with subtle doses in all the right places, taking what could have been a familiar feeling story and sending it miles down the road less traveled, in terms of emotion, comedy, script and pacing. This film has the largest scope of any he has made so far, but it’s purely for atmosphere; he remains steadfast in his need to explore what fascinates him the most: people. Their fears, desires, eccentricities and idiosyncrasies laid out bare and blunt, with none of the trademark gloss or cookie cutter cue card normalcy that so much writing has these days, clouding the potential for characters to feel geniune. They feel just that here though, and inhabit a world of harsh realities, unpredictable outcomes and organic, unforced interaction. Hell, even when his protagonists are vampires, they still feel far more lifelike than many a human character in film these days. The story is benign, until slowly kindled by all the elements I have just outlined. Child services, in the form of a tyrannical bitch (Rachel House), bring wayward boy Ricky (Julien Dennison, a wicked new talent) to stay with his new foster parents on a remote farm in rural New Zealand. The couple (Rima Ti Wiata and the legendary Sam Neill) couldn’t be more different than the young lad. He’s a hoodie wearing, rap rhetoric spewing, pop culture paintball gun of colloquial gibberish and big city malarkey. They are a withdrawn, earthy, isolated type of folk, content with farm life and each other’s company. Ricky is a disruption which they both need, creating a mini culture clash that provides countless moments of amusement as we wade our way into the story. The aforementioned unpredictability strikes when Neill’s wife passes away without buildup or ceremony, leaving him and a kid he barely knows, let alone likes, alone in the world. What follows is a touching, picturesque and endlessly funny glimpse at two people who are thrown into the thick of it together. These people are both lost in different ways; Ricky has never known a real family, tethered to nothing and set adrift among a sea of cyber role models and unreliable elders. Neil has just spent the majority of his life in a rock steady routine with his farmer’s wife and clockwork existence, suddenly unmoored and left with not a clue how to proceed. The two are hilarious together, providing each other with bushels of character development and scene after scene of purely inspired, bona fide human interaction that feels so utterly, blessedly unforced. They’re set among a slide show of breathtaking scenery, lively supporting work and attention to detail that adds up to quite the unforgettable package. If Waititi’s latest is any indication of what’s to come, lay down that red carpet runway post haste, because he’ll continue to take us by storm.

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