Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a New Zealand comedy-drama directed and written by Taika Waititi, the same guy behind the brilliant vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows. This movie has become New Zealand’s highest grossing film of all time, and for good reason.
It tells the story of a problematic, rebellious city kid named Ricky (Julian Dennison) who is sent by child welfare services to live in the countryside with the loving Aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her grumpy husband, Uncle Hec (Sam Neill). But just when Ricky is starting to warm up with his new foster family and environment, Aunt Bella unfortunately dies. Afraid that child services will take him away and send him to “juvy”, he runs away to the bush with Uncle Hec in pursuit. When the over-the-top child welfare officer Paula (Rachel House) arrives and finds the house empty, she comes to the overblown conclusion that Hec has abducted Ricky, inciting a sensational police and military manhunt.
This movie is not as hilarious as What We Do in the Shadows, but it has the same kind of winning off-beat humor. This movie is sprinkled with amusing absurdity. Though I didn’t laugh out loud, I smiled and chuckled a lot.
The chemistry and the central drama between Ricky and Uncle Hec remind me a lot of Carl and Russell’s relationship in Up. Yes, Hunt for the Wilderpeople has the same kind of heartwarming narrative as Up. And I think that’s the best praise I can give this movie.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a well-crafted film. The shots are attractive, the soundtrack is on point, and the pacing is perfect. Most importantly, solid direction and acting effectively carry out its fresh, funny, and poignant script. Thus, this movie has made me more intrigued of what heights Taika Waititi can still reach in his next works. Particularly, Moana, the Disney animated film coming later this year which he wrote, and next year’s Thor: Ragnarok, which he directed.