Cast: Sam Neill and Julian Dennison
What’s it all about?
A national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid and foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush.
What were my thoughts?
Ever since seeing Sam Neill in Jurassic Park (1993), I’ve followed his career with considerable interest. Blockbusters aside, without doubt my favourite movie of his is The Dish (2000) a comedic gem of a movie that tells the story of how the Apollo 11 moon landing were broadcast, thanks to the help of a satellite dish in Parkes, Australia. If you’ve never seen it (You’d very sadly be in the majority) I highly recommend you do.
Anyway, with that independent movie in mind, my interest was piqued for another Neill vehicle, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. The movie has become New Zealand's first local feature to gross more than NZ$1 million in it’s opening weekend at the New Zealand box office. Wilderpeople is the fourth movie for native New Zealand director Waititi, who at time of going to press was busy directing Thor: Ragnorok for Marvel Pictures.
September so far has been a very strong month for movies and has firmly kicked the summer into touch. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople continues the upward trend, it is a true gem of a movie. Blisteringly funny but also poignant and moving.
Front and centre is Julian Dennison as Ricky. A kid who has been shoved from foster home to foster home, never finding the right place. He’s a bit of a wayward kid, but he’s firmly under the “care” of Paula (Rachel House) a over zealous and relatively role obsessed community social worker. Ricky at the start of the movie is left in the care of Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her grouchy husband Hec (Sam Neill). Although Bella and Ricky click at the start, it’s the prickly relationship between Ricky and Hec that develops throughout as they go "missing" and are hunted down by local law enforcement, which is the focus of the movie.
Julian Dennison is a revelation and a true break out star that could be destined for great things, this kid is funny and has genuinely great comic timing. Sam Neill who together with a true bushman’s beard is an absolute delight as Hec, the grumpy hard shelled but soft centred foil for the "gangsta" movie obsessed Ricky. They have great chemistry, and it’s great to see their bond grow throughout the movie. The main duo aside, the movie is peppered with wonderful performances from a largely unknown cast to an international audience. My favourite was Rhys Darby as Psycho Sam who helped the duo on the run. He produced perhaps the biggest laugh of the night with reference to an escape tunnel (If you've seen it you'll know what I mean).
The movie itself is split into ten titled chapters. Wilderpeople features delightful unpretentious warm humour that puts the humour of certain bigger movies (Yes Bad Mom’s I’m looking at you), firmly in place. It has an extremely funny script and engaging story. Perhaps one of the funniest moments is a cameo by the director himself as a Priest who delivers perhaps the worlds worst but funniest eulogy. The movie is a mix of the Pixar animated tear jerker Up! (2009), for it’s relationship between a boy and grumpy old man, Moonrise Kingdom (2012) for the quirkiness of it’s humour and Midnight Run (1988) for the element of two people on the run.
Finally, the movie is beautifully shot and features great music that keeps the tone light despite there being some genuinely moving moments.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a delightful movie that needs to be seen. It's a classic example of story and writing over action set pieces. Although there is a particularly thrilling and well shot car chase reminiscent of Thelma & Louise (1991).
I highly recommend you check this movie out. Unfortunately though it does have a limited nationwide release so, if you are interested, get in their quick as it will soon be gone.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is on limited release now in the UK.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople Movie Review by Carleton Rutter