Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

casey This one was charming as hell.

brooke It’s so incredibly entertaining. I can’t even handle how fun this was.

casey It’s also weird, in the way it morphs from a low-key coming of age story into a odd couple comedy, and then goes for complete screwball insanity at the end, almost something Edgar Wright would’ve made.

brooke It’s definitely got an Act 3 that would fit in alongside Shaun of the Dead…
The real meat of Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the story of Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), a semi-educated foster kid, and his foster father Hec (Sam Neill) as they run away from real life, landing them on the wrong end of a manhunt through the New Zealand Bush led by Ricky’s half-witted social worker Paula (Rachel House) and her even less intelligent sidekick slash police officer Andy (Oscar Kightley).

casey Dennison is hilarious the city kid thrown into the backwoods (he names his dog 2Pac!) I also got a kick out of Rima Te Wiata’s Aunt Bella, the indefatigably cheerful foster mom who introduces Ricky to the remote New Zealand homestead. Initially the movie made me think it would center around her relationship with Ricky, until events transpire that pair the boy with the taciturn, outdoorsy Hec.

brooke Aunt Bella sets the underlying tone for the film and lifts everyone around her while she’s on screen. And Sam Neill’s performance of Hec is reminiscent of his role in Jurassic Park as Dr. Alan Grant, only here he doesn’t have any reason to temper his annoyance.

casey His interactions with Ricky turn out to be the core of the movie, and they’re great . Some scenes feel a bit uneven, with secondary characters who feel a bit too arch, like sketch characters, and some gag bits used more often than needed (in particular, I’m thinking of a trio of oafish hunters the fugitives encounter several times). But as the movie moves into its madcap finale it takes on a kind of sitcom logic that papers over some of the cracks.

brooke I get what you’re saying about it feeling like sketch comedy, but the recurring joke of Paula thinking she’s leading the greatest manhunt in history got me every time. She’s so riled searching for Ricky when she’s just a social worker who kinda hates the kid. Also, Rhys Darby is hysterically funny as the self-proclaimed “Psycho” Sam, a loner conspiracy theorist they encounter in the bush.

casey Once you convince your brain not to expect a completely logical story, the movie is very funny. I liked it a fair bit, mostly on the strength of its two leads.

brooke I love how this movie comes at you in stages. You wouldn’t know that the beginning, middle, and end are all parts of the same film, but they come together in mostly believable (albeit jarring) moments thanks to solid direction from Taika Waititi and an incredible cast. All in all, it makes for the greatest action comedy about raising foster children I’ve ever seen.

casey I wouldn’t take too much actual advice from it, though. You’ll have to trust me on that.

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