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Hunt For the Wilderpeople (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

Hunt For the Wilderpeople

Hunt For the Wilderpeople

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (2016)

Starring Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Oscar Kightley, Cohen Holloway, Stan Walker, Mike Minogue, Rhys Darby, Troy Kingi, Taika Waititi, Hamish Parkinson, Stu Giles, Lloyd Scott and Taika Waititi.

Screenplay by Taika Waititi.

Directed by Taika Waititi.

Distributed by Sony Pictures.  101 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

New Zealand writer/director (and comedian) Taika Waititi put together one of the funniest and most subversive little films of last year, the vampire comedy What We Do In the Shadows.  That film, a “mockumentary” about the boredom and inanity of being undead, was done with old friends Rhys Darby and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), with whom Waititi had a popular comic duo called The Humourbeasts.

That film came on the heels of the oddball romantic comedy Eagle vs. Shark and the sweet coming-of-age drama Boy.  It’s not easy for a small-time director from New Zealand to catch the eyes of Hollywood, but Waititi has been tapped to direct the huge Marvel blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok which, frankly, gives me hope that this overwrought series may get some eccentric humor and odd angles which have pretty much evaded the Marvel Universe since Ant Man, or maybe even the first Avengers movie.

Before that, though, comes this sweet and oddball little trifle, again totally rebooting Waititi’s off-the-wall storytelling style.  It is loosely based on a true story and at heart an adventure story, however it is suffused with Waititi’s wicked sense of humor.  In many ways Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an old-fashioned survival tale, but it is liberally peppered with its creator’s caustic comic eye.

Julian Dennison plays Ricky Baker, a thirteen year old delinquent and wannabe gangsta who has been shuttled from one foster home to another.  The kid has always gone way out of his way to sabotage each situation, because he fears believing in someone to care for him for fear of getting hurt.

Finally he is down to his absolute last chance.  Family services drop him with a hill family, a couple named Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill).  Bella is excited to have the child around, Hec is more standoffish.  However, no matter how much Ricky tries to ruin things, Bella refuses to give up on him.  Eventually Ricky finally feels that he has found a home.

When Becca suddenly dies, the government wants to take Ricky back.  Ricky wants to stay there with Hec.  Hec is a little unsure one way or another.  However, when Ricky runs away Hec follows him, and they end up surviving in the wilderness for months while the government searches for them.

However, if you think this sounds like a Swiss Family Robinson type of adventure, Hunt for the Wilderpeople‘s constant oddball jokes and asides make it go down easy.  It’s an offbeat little movie, but it is also surprisingly fun.

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 4, 2016.

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