From the cracking trailer, it’s hard not to go into this film laughing before the curtains are even drawn. Hunt for the Wilderpeople has already smashed records at the NZ box office, becoming the largest grossing local film of all time.
The credits open with an epic and moving acapella rolling across vast New Zealand bush land, setting the scene for the adventures ahead. Ricky Baker is the central (legendary) character of the film. Notoriously problematic within the welfare system, we see Ricky being delivered to his last hope – the remote home of Bella (‘Aunty’) and grumpy Hector (‘Uncle’). Ricky’s a little bit punk, after being brought up in a series of foster care homes – his passion for hip hop makes him act ‘gangsta’ – it also explains his very OTT wardrobe choices (he tells Bella that Tupac is like his best friend, and later names his dog the same).
After an initial reluctance Ricky starts to settle in to a quiet, happy life in his new home, but when tragedy strikes, the adventures really begin, as Ricky Baker is faced with his future with the authorities – life in a juvenile detention centre.
The humour is delivered in spades from the first chapter. The audience laughed out loud for the first ten minutes. Yes, there are fat jokes, but what was more entertaining was the Kiwi sense of humour – the relentless paying out of one another, whether it was Ricky or Bella or Paula from Child Welfare services. Sam Neill is brilliant as grumpy old Hector, readily sharing his acid remarks throughout. Comedy it may be, but there are also some really heartwarming and sad moments in this tale.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople delivers an altogether ‘majestical’ feature, with all the tenderness of a coming of age film. About 3/4 of the way through, the momentum gets slightly lost and the easy jokes fall flat. But, before you can write the film off, the hi-jinx continues, excitement mounts and feel good humour wins. Highlight: The Ricky Baker Birthday Song (both in the film and the end credits).
♥♥♥.5 ⁄ 5
Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a defiant young city kid who finds himself on the run with his cantankerous foster uncle (Sam Neill) in the wild New Zealand bush. A national manhunt ensues, and the two are forced to put aside their differences and work together to survive in this hilarious and heartfelt adventure.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Starring: Julian Dennison, Sam Neill and Rhys Darby Director: Taika Waititi (Boy, 2010) Country: New Zealand Year: 2016 Genre: Comedy Rated: PG
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is in Australian cinemas from 26 May. Click here for session times and cinemas.