“… a tragic story that uses comedy and adventure to make itself more appealing; so what we get is a charming movie that will make you laugh until you cry.”
Hunt for the Wilderpeople opens with a police car approaching a small farmhouse in the middle of the New Zealand brush. Form the back of the car Ricky Baker emerges, a 12 (almost 13) year-old boy , to inspect his new home. A woman runs out from the house with a huge smile on her face, obviously excited at Ricky’s arrival. She is met with not only Ricky, but also a police officer and a social worker named Paula. Paula describes Ricky as a “bad egg” citing his tendencies toward many bad behaviours including: “disobedience, stealing, spitting, running away, throwing rocks, kicking stuff, loitering, and graffiti”, all the while Ricky is seen walking around in the back of the frame checking out the premises. When Paula’s spiel has ended Ricky walks back toward the group, gets back into the police car, and slams the door. Paula approaches the car, explains to Ricky that no one else wants him, and slaps the window in anger. This brief sequence in the beginning of the film tells you everything you need to know about Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It is a tragic story that uses comedy and adventure to make itself more appealing; so what we get is a charming movie that will make you laugh until you cry.
I have been a fan of writer/director Taika Watiti since I saw his last film, What We Do in the Shadows, so I was more than excited to see Hunt for the Wilderpeople. This excitement grew stronger when I saw the trailer for the film, but I was also struck with sadness. To me, the trailer seemed to give away too much of the plot. I tried to put it out of my mind and went into the film with my excitement level still through the roof. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the trailer didn’t come close to giving away too much of the film. Every turn I was left at the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next, and then doubling over in laughter when the next joke hit. Hunt for the Wilderpeople really is a special movie that I will never forget.
Form the start of the film you can tell that Hunt for the Wilderpeople is something different. Even the look of the film, including the locations, the wardrobes, the colour grading, and even the framing just felt like home. It emanated this odd sense of warmth that welcomed me with open arms into its embrace. The story, like I mentioned before, truly is tragic which catches you off guard when you expect to see a comedy. But believe me, the film does an amazing job at balancing both the drama and the comedy well. The story was absolutely fantastic and managed to tackle quite a few issues that I wan’t expecting it to tackle, but I’m glad that it did.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople works on many levels, but one not the more important levels is the acting. Not all characters are written completely different than what we have seen before, and not all characters have more going on underneath what we are shown. But regardless of that every single actor in this movie knocks it out of the park. Julian Dennison, who plays Ricky Baker, does an absolutely amazing job at bringing his character to life. His mannerisms, his decisions, even his comedic timing are all things that help bring this character into reality and they are all executed flawlessly. Ricky shares a majority of scenes with Uncle Hec (played wonderfully by Sam Neill), and their chemistry is absolutely amazing. To see these characters go through a range of emotion regarding their relationship is purely magical, and you never once question what you are seeing on screen. And those are only the main characters; Hunt for the Wilderpeople features an amazing cast of characters all acted wonderfully, including the hilarious Rhys Darby who appears a Psycho Sam, the man at the heart of many local legends.
With all of this praise that I have been giving Hunt for the Wilderpeople, I feel that it is time to talk about some of the things that I felt could use improvement. First and foremost, I felt that the film didn’t do a great job of conveying the passing of time. Scenes blend in seamlessly with one another which leads you to believe that the events we are seeing are happening in real time, so it is a complete shock when a character drops a bombshell stating that a couple of months have passed. This definitely isn’t something that ruined the film for me, I just wish that it was a little more clear. And finally I want to talk about the soundtrack. Hunt for the Wilderpeople features an amazing soundtrack, filled with great songs that not only convey the feeling of the scene but also want to make you get up and dance. Again, this isn’t anything major I just wish the the film had featured more original music. Not that I did’t like the soundtrack of Hunt for the Wilderpeople, I just felt that it was missing a little something that could have been had with more of an original score.
Ultimately Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a charming, hilarious, and tragic film, and honestly one of the best I have seen all year.
I give Hunt for the Wilderpeople an A