Written and directed by Taika Waititi of What We Do in the Shadows fame, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is similarly hilarious but even more gratifying than the vampire mockumentary. Its characters, humour and warmth quickly win our hearts, and continue to delight us with every scene.
Like a live-action version of Up, the movie tracks the bonding between a cantankerous old man and a displaced little kid. In story and tone, the film isn’t a million miles away (its more like 8,000 miles away) from Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.
Dennison is instantly lovable as Ricky Baker (not to be confused with special effects wizard Rick Baker), a chubby kid who’s been told to express himself through haiku and whose dog is called Tupac. Also terrific are Sam Neill, Rima Te Wiata and Rhys Darby, apparently obliged to appear in every New Zealand movie.
Shot against gorgeous Middle Earth scenery, this is a charming film that deals with family, friendship and death in a way that’s both comforting and extremely funny. Its sharp humour and healthy rebelliousness ensure that it never strays into twee territory, while referencing everything from Rambo and Terminator to Lord of the Rings and Thelma & Louise.
With real stakes, great jokes and emotional investment, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is as likeable and rounded as its rotund hero.