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Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi, 2016) wr. Taiki Waititi from book Smith's Dream by Barry Crump; Julian Dennison, Sam Neill, Rhys Darby; comedy; NZ

This appears to be one of those romps that Aotearoans seem to enjoy so much: about people on the run from blundering, heavy-handed authority. Cf. Goodbye Pork Pie (Geoff Murphy, 1980). Much of the fun here stems from the mismatching of the odd couple, the bookish (alleged) juvenile delinquent Ricky, and the gruff-but-sensitive bushman Hec. But wait! Haven't we seen one of these actors on the run before, forty years ago, in Sleeping Dogs, in which Sam Neill was on the run from the New Zealand state? On the earlier occasion the tone was serious; here it's comic. But I wonder if the two stories do not have something profoundly in common. Something perhaps signalled by Sam Neill’s own 1996 survey of 100 years of NZ cinema, which he called A Cinema of Unease.

A hard-to-handle foster kid from the big city and a grouchy bushman in his sixties are forced to forge an unlikely alliance to survive in the New Zealand wilderness in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a deliciously good time at the movies. An adaptation of Wild Pork and Watercress from the late and legendary New Zealand outdoorsman and novelist Barry Crumb, this familiar but perfectly balanced blend of drama and comedy, action and heart was directed by actor-director Taika Waititi, known for his work on projects such as the vampire mockumentary What We Do In the Shadows and also the director of the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok. Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood Reporter.

A young orphan and his very reluctant keeper 'go bush' on the lam from authorities in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Based on a tale by the late, prolific New Zealand novelist Barry Crump, Taika Waititi’s latest is a pleasing comedy-adventure that pays cheeky homage to key early works from that nation’s first filmic renaissance — right down to casting the still-game Sam Neill, who was also a fugitive 40 years ago in Roger Donaldson’s Sleeping Dogs. Despite the humor, there’s a cornier, more formulaic core here than in the writer-helmer’s prior successes Boy and What We Do in the Shadows that may comparatively limit its offshore prospects. But international sales should be hale enough, and the pic is sure to be another home-turf hit. Dennis Harvey, Variety.

Garry Gillard | New: 10 February, 2017 | Now: 31 May, 2020