Irreverent buddy comedy Hunt For The Wilderpeople lapped up awards on the 2016 festival circuit and it’s easy to see why, writes Natalie Stendall.
It comes from Taika Waititi, the audacious writer, director and star of 2014’s hilarious vampire spoof What We Do In The Shadows.
This latest feature is less silly than his debut, but it’s just as charming.
Waititi does quiet tragedy very well. Dressed in a leopard print baseball cap and dollar sign hoodie, foster child Ricky (Julian Dennison) is treated as a hopeless ‘bad egg’ by child welfare services.
Inside, he harbours a love of reading and a gift for haikus. Ricky finds happiness when he’s relocated from the city to the home of Bella (Rima Te Waita) and her reluctant husband Hec (Sam Neill) on the edge of the New Zealand bush.
It doesn’t last for long and when child services threaten to move Ricky he escapes into the wilderness, becoming an unlikely outlaw with unenthusiastic Hec.
The last five years have given us some splendid adult-child buddy movies from St Vincent to Everything Must Go and Hunt For The Wilderpeople finds a home amongst the best.
Sam Neill’s crotchety, reluctant father might be typical of the genre but makes for a delightful pairing with wide eyed, quick-witted rising star Julian Dennison.
Waititi gives the duo some of 2016’s funniest dialogue, much of the movie’s charm and comedy arising from their quarrelsome banter and sideways glances.
Pop-culture references litter the subtext (from the Cadbury flake advert to the Terminator movies and Lord Of The Rings) making Hunt For The Wilderpeople a sure-fire hit with movie buffs.
Waititi makes his own farcical cameo as an incoherent minister rambling about confectionary and Jesus: just one of the many instances Hunt For The Wilderpeople approaches the facts of life with charming irreverence.
It’s this innate wit that rescues Hunt For The Wilderpeople from its own occasionally rambling plot.
The escalating outlaw gags hem the story into a corner but Waititi manages to pull off an endearing finale befitting its loveable characters.
Hunt For The Wilderpeople is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and online rental