Film Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Acclaimed director Taika Waititi (Eagle vs Shark, Boy, What We Do in the Shadows) returns with a new offering and it’s another absolute bloody gem of a film.

Starring Sam Neill and Julian Dennison, the story revolves around Ricky (Dennison), a defiant young city kid, sent to rural New Zealand to live with a new foster family. A series of unfortunate events see him having to go on the run with his miserable, grumpy and detached “uncle” (Neill) in the bush. This leads to a nationwide manhunt.

As you would hope and expect from a Waititi movie, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is very, very funny. The jokes come thick and fast and, while typically silly, always fit naturally with the narrative. One particular mention of Lord of the Rings had me still laughing minutes after it was delivered.

The chemistry between all of the characters is exceptional. Rima Te Wiata is great as the foster auntie, who chips away at Ricky’s guarded exterior, while Neill plays the reluctant carer brilliantly. And as for Julian Dennison, well, his performance is delightful. He plays the cheeky yet lost (literally and metaphorically) youngster to perfection, at times dropping hilarious punchlines while elsewhere showing the vulnerability of a child who has spent his life moving from one temporary family to the next. Rhys Darby pops up in the film’s final act for a madcap cameo too.

New Zealand looks beautiful throughout. Obviously. Less beautiful are a couple of animal deaths which are a bit bloody. Animal lovers/vegetarians might struggle with two particular scenes.

Regardless of these moments, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a movie that will appeal to everybody. Whether you are looking for a family outing to the movies or are just a fan of that Flight of the Conchords‘ style of humour, I cannot recommend this film highly enough. It is fun, heartwarming and absolutely hilarious.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople comes out on May 26 in Australia. For other countries, check local listings. 

bobby t


Review by Bobby Townsend