Ricky Baker is a troubled kid who has been thrown between foster homes for years. When he arrives at Bella and Hec's home, he doesn't expect it to be any different. But amazingly, he has landed in the arms of a woman who loves him and wants to take care of him. Hec doesn't mind him too much... When Bella dies soon after, Hec has to break the news to Ricky: it was Bella who wanted him there, and he is better off being taken back by child services. Ricky doesn't want to go back, so he writes a suicide note, burns down the barn, and leaves to live in the wild! When Hec finds him and the two have to stay in the woods for a while due to an accident making Hec unable to walk, the national media and child services believe that Ricky was kidnapped by Hec, and there is now a manhunt going on.
It's not hard to be excited about Taika Waititi's new film after "What We Do in the Shadows" (or if you're a fan of his previous work before that). The trailer for "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" certainly promised a different kind of a film, but the endearing (and hilarious) comedy was still very much present. And boy do we need someone who understands comedy nowadays! When the majority of comedies are carbon copies of each other, and the ones copied weren't great to begin with, we desperately need a new voice. It doesn't feel like we've had any truly fresh comedy and equally brilliant comedy filmmakers since Edgar Wright sold us on "Shaun of the Dead" a decade ago. Well, now I have Taika Waititi's work to look forward to! "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" fits right into Fantasia International Film Festival where it's currently playing, as a fantastical and hilarious adventure movies made perfectly for every kind of film lover.
When a young troublemaker, Ricky Baker, is forced to live with yet another foster family, he just wants to run away. But for once he seems to have landed with pretty great foster parents - a fun, loving no-bullshit woman (Bella) and her somewhat hard-to-reach husband (Hec). After a failed attempt to run away, he decides that he might as well stay with this woman. He's loved, he learns new things, she's interested in his weird little interests, and everything seems to be going pretty great for this troubled kid... until she is found dead. Ricky has now lived with them for a while and doesn't want to be taken away again, but Hec has no interest in taking care of a kid on his own - that was all his wife's idea. One thing leads to another, and Ricky finds himself in the middle of the New Zealand woods, struggling to survive with his dog and gun. He doesn't get far before Hec finds him and this begins an adventure for both of them; national news believes that Hec has kidnapped him, and they are now being hunted down by cops, locals and child services alike!
And what an adventure they embark on! It's somewhere between "First Blood" and "Homeward Bound", but with a fat kid and Sam Neill. Needless to say, the movie is hilarious. But it is also heartwarming and nice. I don't think I'd be lying if I called it the feelgood movie of the decade, and I definitely feel there is a lack of refreshing movies like it. This mix of comedic brilliance and exhilarating adventure makes for a movie that's worth a couple of rewatches - hell, I already want to show this movie to everyone I know.
The cast is marvellous. Here we have a kid (Julian Dennison) with just a handful of credits to his name, outshining every comedy actor I have seen in the last couple of years. We have Sam Neill in one of his most wonderful roles yet (and I say that as a fan, though he has a lot of questionable movies under his belt). Rima Te Wiata was great in "Housebound", but she's instantly lovable as Bella here, and will probably be the role I associate her with in the future. I could go on, but let's just say that there is not a single poorly cast role in the movie. That also goes for some smaller roles, such as Taika Waititi as a priest, and Rhys Darby as Psycho Sam.
Yes, this is me gushing over a movie. Don't think it's for nothing: I had my doubts about the movie, but it took just seconds to win me over. There is nothing at all that I can complain about. It's perfectly cast, the script is as good and funny as it possibly could be, the cinematography brings out the best of the New Zealand woods, and most importantly it's a constant joy to watch "Hunt for the Wilderpeople". There are certain movies you are just gobsmacked about how it all could come together as well as it did, and this is one of those instances.
While "What We Do in the Shadows" is probably the more purely funnier movie, there was not a second of "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" that I didn't like. The former is certainly a fantastic movie, but this one is an instant classic that I hope will get the recognition it deserves. If you watch one comedy this year, then let that be "Hunt for the Wilderpeople". You'll quote it, your friends will quote it - and their friends will quote it. As long as people watch it, because it would pain me if this one goes unnoticed (but from the looks of it, it's getting enough attention to become a classic). I love absolutely everything about this movie, and I am now waiting for "We're Wolves" with even more excitement then ever (and know for sure that I have to watch Taika Waititi's previous work while I wait). "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" is an important classic - an endearing, offbeat adventure comedy - that hopefully will help you forget all the bad things going on in the world, even if just for a while.