Hunt for the Wilderpeople
‘Ninjas, dire wolves, child services!’ Taika Waititi brings a unique silliness to an endearing coming-of-age tale
Taika Waititi brings his raw and surprising humor to the table as he endeavors to tell the tale of a young boy discovering himself in the wilderness of New Zealand. He reminds you that you don’t have to be a kid to discover yourself in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, following young Ricky (Julien Dennison) and his foster uncle Hec (Sam Neill) as they learn to live with each other and themselves.
His unique style shows through in both his writing and directing, a style that was also apparent in his 2015 vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. Scattered with a collection of pop culture references, from Ricky’s imaginary best friend being rapper Tupac to comparing child services with ninjas and dire wolves, there is something for everyone in Wapiti’s newest comedy.
The film begins as hip-hop loving orphan finds himself on a remote farm in the foster-care of Hec and Bella (Rima Te Wiata). Not surprisingly, this little heaven doesn’t last too long. Hec finds himself a wife and Ricky without a mom. In lieu of being sent back to child services, Ricky escapes into the wilderness. His loner uncle follows him and after finding their way to a remote outpost, discover that there is a national manhunt for the runaway duo.
The rest of the film maintains an admirable balance between over-the-top silliness and heart-warming sentimentality as the dynamic duo learns to live with and support each other while on the run from a disingenuous child services employee. There is a beautiful chemistry between Neill and Dennison that seems to evolve into an unbreakable friendship, on- and off-screen.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is beautifully shot to showcase the ‘majestical’ New Zealand wilderness, from sweeping wide-angle shots to sun-kissed close-ups. The film clearly pays homage reminiscent of late 70s/early 80s filmmaking. The score seems to mimic a John Carpenter film and the sweeping wide-angle shots evokes memories of classic adventure films.