Movie Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Title: Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Release Date: 31 March 2016
Director: Taika Waititi
Production Company: Defender Films | Piki Films | Curious | New Zealand Film Commission

Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a 12-year-old orphan of Māori descent who the child welfare officer Paula Hall (Rachel House) refers to as “a bad egg.” He’s placed in a home on a remote farm with the warm and loving foster mother Bella Faulkner (Rima Te Wiata) and her laconic husband Hec (Sam Neill, who I never realized was from New Zealand).  When Bella suddenly dies, Ricky and Hec shattered and uncertain for their future. Ricky wants to stay with Hec, but Hec wants no part of parenting. Through a series of events I won’t spoil, they end up on the run from the government in the bush, becoming celebrity outlaws in the process.

This film has a lot of heart, and Dennison and Neill are terrific in their acting of two men needing to break through their defensive shells to bond.  It also terrifically funny with a lot of quirky humor.  The landscapes are quite beautiful too, and reminiscent of the New Zealand scenery scene in Lord of the Rings (something that Ricky alludes to).  I was late Taika Waititi’s movies, but I think I’m going to have to watch all of them going forward.

Rating: ****