There are directors whose work that I follow with anticipation for the next movie they create. Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and Paul Thomas Anderson are some of the obvious ones that myself and everybody else who likes movies can name. For that reason it feels a little more special when I come across a foreign director that makes the types of movies that speak to me. I usually find their work at film festivals and go into them knowing very little. It’s one of the best ways to watch a movie. The Danish director Tobias Lindholm (A Hijacking) and the director of the recently released “The Lobster”, Yorgos Lanthimos, are two that immediately come to mind. I can recognize the subtle touches (and not so subtle in Lanthimos’ case) that they carry from film to film keep me wanting more. So when I saw Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clements’ vampire mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows last year I knew that I would be looking forward to Waititi’s newest project.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is that project and stars Sam Neill and the newer but well acclaimed New Zealand actor, Julian Dennison. Written and directed by Waititi it is a comedy that follows the adventures of Uncle Hec and Ricky, played by Neill and Dennison as they bond while on the run from authorities in the New Zealand bush (wilderness). Ricky Barnes is another kid flowing through the child welfare system from foster family to foster family. He’s a friendly but mischievous kid who loves rap, outlandish clothes, and everything that the Skux life entails (the New Zealand version of thug life). When he’s given a last chance foster family deep in the New Zealand country he’s the city kid in the sticks. He starts to acclimate well in unfamiliar surroundings. His new Uncle Hec might not be that warm on the idea of having him around, but this finally seems like a place that will become a home to him. Things change for the worst just as they started to get good for Ricky however and he finds himself going into the bush with his new dog Tupac to stay ahead of the authorities who want to take him to another foster family. Through an accident and misunderstanding, Neill’s character finds himself joining Ricky in eluding the authorities and their adventure is a humorous and touching one.
Having seen Taika Waititi’s work directing Flight of the Conchords and writing/directing/acting in What We Do in the Shadows I knew that the comedy in this film would be the dry variety that I love. The characters were quirky and unexpected with some great performances that really made me want to expand my New Zealand comedy knowledge. However there were a few that were a little over the top for my liking and almost brought the movie off track at times. The antagonist was a little too overzealous and separated from reality for much of the film (think Annie’s Miss Hannigan) and the baddies they encounter in the forest were played like the Kiwi three stooges. They didn’t derail the movie though as the more dramatic aspects kept the film from becoming too much of a slapstick child’s comedy and kept it at a nice balance. Going into the movie the idea of it being overly cheesy or precious was something that I was worried about with the limited experience I’ve had with Waititi’s films. I could see the film coming up to those obstacles throughout but almost every time he managed to steer clear and overall the film was an enjoyable mix of comedy, drama, and adventure. Sam Neill playing another gruff adult forced to spend time with children without the threat of dinosaurs eating them was a joy. I was surprised by how little the tribulations that Ricky encountered affected him in the end but I was laughing so much that I didn’t notice enough to care. It was one of those movies that has you grinning from how much fun you’re having with added flair from the film’s superb soundtrack selection. An energy that makes you want to go out exploring and spending more time with these characters. I really think the New Zealand sensibility that Waititi brings into the film really made it into something enjoyable and wonder if the same could be said for an American version of the film.
Taika Waititi’s next film will be Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok. When the choice of Waititi as director was first announced there was plenty of intrigue from nerds who hadn’t heard of the director. After seeing what he can do with his last two films I am as excited to see what a director will do with a Marvel film as I was for Edgar Wright and Ant-Man. With the added benefit of knowing it’s currently filming in Australia we know that there’s a good chance we’ll actually get to see what that will look like unlike Wright’s Ant-Man. I can’t wait to see what he does with the Marvel Universe. He certainly has The Knack.
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4.5/ Acting: 4.5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls
Hunt for the Wilder People is opening in more cities across the U.S. every week so check HERE to see when it’s coming to your part of the bush and keep living that Skux life.
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