A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Taika Waititi
Written By: Taika Waititi
Produced By: Carthew Neal, Leanne Saunders, Taika Waititi, Matt Noonan
Starring: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Bursting out of the shadows and becoming a household name that puts New Zealand back on the map amid the sizeable wake of the colossal battle for Middle Earth, Taika Waititi’s latest outing ventures out of the realm of mockumentary and into the wilderness, proving his comedic aptitude stems further than simple satire.
Continuing the resurgence of Sam Neill and introducing a delightful young talent in Julian Dennison, Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Waititi’s fourth directorial feature, is a highly original, intelligently conceived and incredibly touching affair that captures something beautiful within the dichotomy of its central leads.
A film that could be seen as a film drawing large inspiration from Disney Pixar’s Up, with elements of countless other adventure comedies alike, Hunt For The Wilderpeople is as loud, outrageous, hysterical and moving as one could hope for within a ninety-minute low-budget comedy gem.
The first notably impressive element of the film is the comedic proficiency on display within almost every single character. Scenarios are crafted to lend themselves to beautifully choreographed, effortless gags that sometimes don’t require discourse at all.
Through various forms of comedy such as slapstick, one-liners, situational gags, expressions and recurring subtleties, Waititi not just presents, but brings to life one of the funniest screenplays in recent memory. Diverse, charming and full of enjoyable qualities, this is a film that has an enormous amount to offer audiences of all ages.
Without saying a single word, we’re perfectly introduced to Julian Dennison’s Ricky Baker, a troublesome youngster being passed on to new foster carers in Bella and Hector Faulkner (Rima Te Wiater and Sam Neill). While Aunty Bella is sweet, inviting and maternal to Ricky, the unwelcoming grimace of Uncle Hector suggests otherwise.
His introduction is in fact rather similar to Ricky’s, and it’s from there that a difficult relationship is formed, but what ensues is a beautifully rich and contrasting bond between the pair that fluctuates and develops in its own unique and hilarious way.
As the plot progresses, the pair are pursued by children services agent Paula Hall (Rachael House) and Officer Andy (Oscar Kightley), whose Good Cop-Bad Cop relationship provides an enormous amount of laughs throughout the picture. With ineptitude and cartoonish aggression on display, some of the film’s highlights are found within these two and their interactions with various and equally amusing supporting characters (one of which, Stan Walker, may be a pleasant surprise to some audiences).
Waititi’s supremely clever writing and direction allows for moments of pathos, agony and genuine emotion amid the chaos and outrageousness, not taking away from the comedic momentum, but introducing a bold and enveloping dimension into the characters and story. It’s a brave decision to make when a film drastically shifts in tone, but Hunt For The Wilderpeople manages to execute the manoeuvre superbly and with good, justified reasoning.
Blending anarchic chase sequences with intelligent silliness (which is a difficult blend in itself) and effective poignancy on top of it all, one of the more striking elements of the film is the cinematography that sets all the action in motion. Beneath the energy, tension and fast-paced nature of the film, there’s an undercurrent of beauty and calmness exhibited in the variety of establishing shots.
Not only showcasing the New Zealand wilderness in all its vast and stunning glory, the film even gives The Lord Of The Rings a run for its money (and is even self-aware enough to reference it at one stage). Endless mountain ranges, dreamlike lakes and eye-catching plains provide a beautiful setting for the film, whilst fitting in to the story itself.
Although some shots appear to be extracted directly from a tourism commercial, the characters actually comment on the landscapes with an appreciative tone, with the word “Magestical” even being used once or twice to great effect.
This signals a deeper facet of the film, which is a love letter to a country. Hunt For The Wilderpeople is as much a celebration of New Zealand as it is a tale of an estranged boy meeting a father-like figure in need of something similar.
Before you see what Waititi brings to the formulaic, producer-driven franchised world of overblown, vacuous Marvel pictures with the forthcoming Thor: Ragnarök, do yourself a favour and devote some time to see what a contemporary comedy with true heart and soul is like.
With a true sense of New Zealand charm and spirit, as well as featuring an Australian Idol who is in fact a Kiwi (Sam Neill that is), Hunt For The Wilderpeople is guaranteed to make you laugh enough times to get your money’s worth, and then some.
If this is not the case, please seek help, because something is definitely wrong with you.