You’ve seen director Taika Waititi take off in films such as Thor:Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit, now see the movie that took him to the next level just a few years ago in Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Old couple Bella (Rema Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill of Jurassic Park fame) take in Ricky (Julian Dennison of Deadpool 2 fame), the least popular kid in the New Zealand foster care system. Ricky has a habit of being uncontrollable and has a habit of running away from his assigned families.
Something about this family is different. Hec is grumpy and doesn’t hide the fact that he doesn’t want the kid living on the couple’s farm. Bella is sweet and kind, nurturing Ricky to the point where he loses the desire to run.
Alas, all this changes when Bella passes away unexpectedly. Upon learning that his social worker, Paula, is coming to collect him (she thinks the boy would be better off with a couple and Hec, no fan of Ricky, doesn’t protest) Ricky, true to form, runs off into the forest.
Hec ventures after him, only to break his leg, rendering him immobilized for weeks. Ricky takes care of the man he comes to call Uncle, but also true to form, the media makes a mountain out of a molehill, ginning up a false narrative of how Hec has kidnapped the boy and run off into the woods with him with all manner of evil intentions under the sun.
I wasn’t a fan of the ending. Not to give it away, but it doesn’t seem fair what happens to Hec, but then again, life is not fair. I think the underlying point of the tale is when the media and government team up in believing a false story, they rarely, if ever, are willing to admit they got it wrong and won’t stop until they get their scapegoat, that being Hec, here. Dennison is funny as Ricky, though at times, Ricky is a little jerk who fans the flames against Hec when he doesn’t get his way, and sometimes one wonders why Hec doesn’t just drop the kid off at the nearest sign of civilization and then run.
Sam Neill is great in this role and personally, I think this is the best thing he’s done since Jurassic Park. I’m sure he’s done a lot of great stuff but generally, he always plays the same stern, grumpy, leave me alone type character and that pays off here as he plays opposite a very annoying kid.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Available on Hulu.
I saw ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ in New Zealand on first release. It has a LOT of in-jokes about Kiwi culture, characters, and nods to local legends (such as the Huia) that I suspect anybody outside NZ would be unlikely to ‘get’. Also in typical Kiwi form, I still recall lining up at a local supermarket checkout one time after the movie was released, to see Stuart Dennison and his family next ahead in the line. Nobody paid any attention to them. New Zealand’s like that.
I liked it. I did think Hec got a raw deal at the end and it doesn’t make sense that he’d continue to be the kid’s adopted uncle when the kid has a bad habit of accusing him of crimes and getting him trouble with the law whenever he doesn’t get his way but I suppose logic doesn’t really apply to wacky comedies.