Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) Review
Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House
The utterly charming and comical Hunt for the Wilderpeople is one of this year’s best surprise movies. It’s a refreshing palette cleanser after a summer of underachieving blockbuster movies.
New Zealand director/writer Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnorok, What We do in the Shadows) focuses in on many aspects big budget movies forget to take to heart: make the characters and their relationships worth caring about and build a story around them that we can invest in.
Peel away the layers, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is about an odd couple who discover they have more in common than meets the eyes. The two main characters live on the fringe of society, alone, and learn where they best belong might be with each other.
Juvenile delinquent Ricky Baker is played wonderfully by Julian Dennision. He doesn’t have the refined polish of a seasoned child actor and his believable performance is better off for it. Sam Neill is dependably solid as foster Uncle Hec. Hec is not quite a curmudgeon but he carries a world-weariness in his eyes and demeanor.
The interplay between Ricky and Hec is this movie’s backbone. Their adventures together lead them down a path of playful mischief and laugh-out loud hilarity. A strength of Waititi’s script is taking left turns with each story beat and dialogue, when one might expect things to play out conventionally.
The many memorable supporting characters also deserve praise. Foster Aunt Bella instantly pops with warmth and vibrancy. She tells Ricky, “You can run away as long as your back by breakfast”. We could easily spend more time with all the colorful characters that Rick and Hec come across.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople wasn’t on a lot of moviegoers’ radar at the beginning of the year. It certainly deserves to be now that positive word of mouth is spreading about Wilderpeople’s spritely screenplay and delightful cast of characters. After watching Hunt for the Wilderpeople, it makes Taika Waititi all the more intriguing choice as the director of Thor: Ragnorok which is described as an intergalactic buddy comedy road movie of sorts.
What do you think of Hunt for the Wilderpeople? Which are your favorite surprise movies of the year so far?