Pretty sure this is New Zealand’s version of Moonrise Kingdom.
Directed by Taika Watiti (What We Do in the Shadows), this film is as off-kilter and impossibly charming as his other work. It stars Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) and Julian Dennison as illiterate Hector and spunky Ricky Baker. Ricky has been shuffled between foster homes, due to his rebellious behavior, and he finally lands with Hector and Bella.
When Bella dies unexpectedly, a New Zealand welfare agent plans to fetch Ricky and send him to a boys home. Ricky runs away, Hector comes to find him, and soon they’re runaway fugitives. It starts with their attempts at survival and culminates in a genuinely massive manhunt. I’m not even kidding. There are tanks and helicopters chasing these people by the end.
From this description, you might expect the movie to be all over the place, and it is. There is comedy and action and drama, sometimes all at once. It’s a juggling act, and Waititi handles it masterfully.
The film is peppered with stunning natural landscapes, with few signs of true civilization in sight. It’s also grounded in our modern reality, as one man begs for a selfie with Ricky and the boy makes a reference to The Lord of the Rings. And yet, when I said it was like Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, I wasn’t kidding.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is gloriously off-kilter, as you might expect from the title. It’s like its star, Ricky: eccentric, surprising, and much deeper than you’d expect.
I’m excited to see what Taika Waititi brings to Thor: Ragnarok, which he is filming now.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is in theaters now.