It’s always something of an event when a New Zealand film hits the big screen, and even more so when it’s a film from Taika Waititi who has quickly become one of this country’s biggest and best film-makers with international acclaim for both Boy and 2014’s vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows.
This time around, Waititi has set himself to adapting a classic New Zealand novel, ‘Wild Pork and Watercress’ by acclaimed kiwi novelist Barry Crump, and has pulled a view big names and familiar faces in to help him, including Sam Neill, Oscar Kightley and Rhys Darby. Along with the excellent addition of new face Julian Dennison and some brilliant and unexpected cameos, Wilderpeople’s cast is outstanding and all have their chance to shine under Waititi’s tight direction. Telling the story of young, rebellious foster child Ricky Baker and the national manhunt that occurs when he goes ‘missing’ with his foster uncle Hector, Wilderpeople is funny and full of heart.
In addition to the performances on-screen, the work off of it is equally as impressive – from the fast-paced and hilarious script to the precise camera-work. The jokes come thick and fast, in the form of numerous visual gags as well as some very clever one-liners. While the humour is definitively ‘New Zealand’ through and through, international audiences will also have no problems appreciating its quick wit and fast pace and I’m sure this film can equal both Boy’s and Shadows’ success abroad. But, at the centre of any good comedy is a heartfelt story and in this arena Wilderpeople certainly did not falter. It’s filled to the brim with emotion and a genuinely engaging plot, be prepared though as it wasn’t just laughter that filled the cinema there were lots of tissues dabbing tears too.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople might just be Taika Waititi’s best film yet with excellent technical direction, a high-paced plot, lots of heart and plenty of laughs for this perfectly chosen cast. A Kiwi classic that will surely delight audiences of all ages for generations to come.
Reviewed by Stewart Sowman-Lund.