[Fantasia 2016] Hunt for the Wilderpeople


Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a charming take on a straightforward buddy comedy from director Taika Waititi. A troubled foster child, Ricky Baker, teams up with old curmudgeon Hector to roam the New Zealand bush on the run from authorities. The relationship between the two characters and the chemistry between actors Sam Neill (Hec) and Julian Dennison (Ricky) make this movie greater than the sum of its buddy comedy parts.

The movie begins with Ricky Baker, an amiable Dennis the Menace type, reluctantly adjusting to his new adopted parents Hec and Bella (Rima Te Wiata). Bella and Ricky develop an immediate rapport while Hector remains cold to their new foster child. Rima Te Wiata’s portrayal of Bella is delightful enough to make her early exit from the story a palpable loss. She also sings a very catchy original birthday song (sample lyrics: "Ricky Baker, happy birthday, once rejected, now accepted, by me and Hector, we're a trifecta”).

The story continues with Ricky and Hec isolated in the bush, attempting to outrun the police as well as a militaristic children’s aid worker played by Rachel House. In addition to the comedic chemistry between the cast members, the movie also evokes the beauty of the New Zealand forest, now somewhat familiar to North American audiences by way of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This setting provides a visually stunning backdrop to a highly enjoyable buddy comedy with memorable characters. I was humming Ricky’s birthday song long after the final credits.
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