Hunt for the Wilderpeople


A wild teenage boy and his late foster mother’s cantankerous husband get lost in the wilderness after social services threatens to take the boy away.

Year: 2016
Certificate: 12
Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: Sam NeillRachel HouseOscar KightleyRima Te WiataJulian DennisonTioreore Ngatai-MelbourneRhys DarbyCohen HollowayStan WalkerTroy KingiMike Minouge

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Netflix UK have had a storming start to the year, but the one addition on everyone’s lips is Taika Waititi’s (“What We Do in the Shadows” and the upcoming “Thor: Ragnarok”) delightful New Zealand family comedy adventure, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”.

The film is based on Barry Crump’s book “Wild Pork and Watercress” and tells the story of Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), an orphaned city kid delinquent. His criminal activity is all pretty harmless (“breaking stuff, defacing stuff, kicking stuff”), but child welfare are yet to find anyone who’ll welcome him into their family. In steps Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her gruff husband Hec (Sam Neill), and Bella’s thoughtful hot water bottles begin to turn things around for Ricky, whose desire to run away from their remote cabin starts to ease off. So much so that, when tragedy strikes, Ricky can think of nothing worse than being taken back in by child services and instead heads off into the bush, only to be pursued by Hec. Thus begins a manhunt, with autocratic welfare officer Paula insistent that Hec’s abducted our young hero.

Dennison and Neill are terrific here. Honestly, you’ll struggle to find a better double act this year. Their chalk and cheese relationship provides the heart of a film whose wacky eccentricities could otherwise become shallow. It’s a really beautifully drawn relationship, as Ricky moves from a hindrance to someone Hec is forced to rely on and ultimately bond with. Ricky is a great character and Dennison aces Waititi’s charmingly idiosyncratic dialogue. He also exudes physical comedy as he seamlessly alternates between a skulky shuffle and an exuberant bound.

The film is unashamedly New Zealander. The accents are thick (and inherently hilarious) and Waititi doesn’t skimp on the slang terms, but that cultural identity is worth its weight in gold in an increasingly transnational world cinema. Likewise, the humour feels closer to British than North American, but has it’s own Antipodean anti-authoritarian quirks.

Waititi matches this with his witty visual style, which combines gorgeous The Lord of the Rings-style aerial shots with the inventive cineliteracy of an Edgar Wright. Waititi grounds the film in 80s genre cinema, with the smooth, swirling synths of Moniker’s score, characters arguing over which Terminator character they’d be and a Mad Max-style chase at the end.

Yet, once again, Waititi manages to throw in all these nods and gags without any of them feeling overly knowing. Instead, they stand as a vital structural foundation of this world: a world in which Waititi tells a beautifully heartfelt story about loss, family and sausages.

Have you seen this film? Let us know your opinions in the comments below and of course if there are any films on Netflix UK you want us to review let us know!

About Benedict

Freelance culture journalist and Film Studies graduate. Netflix is his happy place.

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