- Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
Ricky Baker, a foster kid with an attitude, is no good. He’s been accused of spitting, kicking things, throwing things, loitering, graffiti, and a whole lot of things that a rebellious teen could do. The 13-year-old is sent to the family living in the bush in New Zealand to meet sweet Bella and her husband Hec – and despite problems with mutual understanding at the beginning, the child learns to love his new home and new family. Soon, he runs away with his uncle after a series of events that make child services pursue him again and makes the entire country go on a manhunt.
Have you ever watched anything from Taika Waititi? His portfolio is broad already: Boy, a coming-of-age film, and the last year’s vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows have brought him critical recognition already. His new film, based on Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump, is a mixture of tongue-in-cheek one-liners and laugh-out-loud dialogues – imagine you favourite action film character on a run, but treating himself much less seriously, and much more sassy. He creates a funny, action-packed and hopeful flick with contrasting, well-defined characters that bring far too much fun to a road trip, hiking trip, desperate runaway attempt, no matter how you call it.
Julian Dennison, who portrays Ricky, nails it as the boy who is offensive and plays tough, with a dream of becoming a gangster – however, at some point, he reveals softer, smart-ass nature, when he speaks about people who can’t read or writes haikus. With his hilarious statements about the world and pulling off the situational humour, his character will remind you of that one class clown with the best comments and the most suitable line to say in every single situation. On the other hand, Sam Neill provides a fantastic contrast to his younger counterpart; his character is moody, darkly funny, realistic, but hiding a great sentiment to his foster child. As the time passes, they develop a strong bond, learn from each other, and change – over the span of ten chapters that the story is built around, we see best friends – or a happy family made of the most unlikely material ever – in the making. #SquadGoals, that is. If you thought you were leading a thug life, stop right there.
There is something about Hunt for the Wilderpeople that makes the time unsolidified. It’s based on the novel written in the 80s –a great synth-based soundtrack, and some clues dropped in between, show us people who could have never left the era, and paint the atmosphere of “living away from the civilisation”. At some point, we see Ricky taking selfies with a guy he met (by the way, did you know that the word originated down under in the early noughties?) and photos going viral on some website that looks like Instagram. The time is fluid here, but that helps to process that wonderful mix of witty, endearing and intelligent with absurd and crazy.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a film that will make you chuckle a few times in a span of one minute, but it’s not just a comedy, or, as some people were trying to name it, a family film. Its carefully accumulated bits of tear-shedding, moving moments, followed with action that mocks blockbusters and fuelled with humour, it’s a maverick – and such a great opening to the autumn film season.