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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Home Hunting

Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Published Thursday July 21, 07:39 pm
In any other country this would be a drama

Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Roxy Theatre
Opens July 22
4 out of 5

There are other filmmakers working in New Zealand besides Peter Jackson — some even not as susceptible to digital effects as the Lord of the Rings mastermind. Chief among them is Taika Waititi. Despite working with ridiculously small budgets, every single one of Waititi’s movies has hit the international art film circuit: Boy, Eagle vs Shark and What We Do in the Shadows, the last two starring regular partner in crime, Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement.

Hunt for the Wilderpeopleis arguably Waititi’s best work. Equally hilarious and affecting, Wilderpeople is about outsiders finding each other and learning to trust again. You won’t find a movie as positive as this one without verging into hackneyed territory.

Ricki (superb newcomer Julian Dennison) is a 12-year old foster child unable to find a permanent home. He’s not necessarily easy to deal with but is far from unsociable. Social services places him in the bush (NZ countryside) with a sympathetic aboriginal woman and her rather surly partner, Hec (Sam Neill, never better). Just as Ricki starts to let his guard down, his foster mother dies and Hec is deemed unsuitable to care for him — not that he minds.

Unwilling to go back into the system Ricki goes on the run, dragging an unsuspecting Hec with him. A reluctant camaraderie develops between the two, boosted by the fact Hec is believed a kidnapper and Ricki, the victim. The twosome must avoid capture in the bush for months, likely the most stable period in the youngster’s life.

While no heartbreak is spared, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a riot most of the time, starting with Ricki’s foster mom’s vigil. The film wasn’t made with international audiences in mind: New Zealanders’ idiosyncrasies are on full display and the movie is better for it. Wilderpeople is so witty and well-constructed, it’s no wonder Taika Waititi was tapped to direct the next Thor movie. Here is hoping Marvel lets Waititi’s freak flag fly.

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