Hunt for the Wilderpeople

The Orchard

Reviewed by: Tami Smith, Guest Reviewer for Shockya

Grade: B+

Director: Taika Waititi

Written by: Taika Waititi

Based on: Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump

Cast: Julian Dennison, Sam Neill, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Tuss, Finn

Release Date: June 24th, 2016

Ricky (Julian Dennison), an abandoned, overweight, thirteen-year old child living in New Zealand, had his share of foster care homes. Life changes when he is delivered by Paula (Rachel House), a social worker, to the modest home of Aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Uncle Hec (Sam Neill). The couple live in a small house with outdoor plumbing and hunt for food with the help of their dog Zag (Finn). Things become even better, when Bella gives Ricky a birthday party with a cake and a present: a part Pit Bull terrier named Tupac (Tuss). After Bella dies unexpectedly, child care services is ready to transfer Ricky again to another foster home, but he fears that his days are numbered before being taken to the “Juvee”, a prison facility for juvenile boys. Since Ricky will have none of this he decides to become a fugitive and live in the “bush” with Uncle Hec following reluctantly. The pair survives there through the fall, winter and spring, while being followed relentlessly by police, helicopters and bounty hunters.

Most of the plot in Hunt for the Wilderpeople takes place in the spectacular vistas of New Zealand’s Piha Karekare, Bethells Beach, Horopito and the Kaimanawa Plains, which are photographed with splendor by cinematographer Lachian Milne.

Director and screen writer Taika Waititi does not shy away from showing us the realities of outdoor living including: stealing provisions, threatening other people with guns, and the fundamental hunt for food, all which are essential to long-term survival in the woods. He shows dramatic situations with a light comic touch.

Acting in Hunt for the Wilderpeople is first-rate. Julian Dennison in the role of Ricky gives a convincing performance of a child who is tired of being shuttled through the foster care system. Sam Neill, at sixty-eight-years of age, is in top form here, portraying an outdoor rugged man who never asked to be a foster parent. Rima Te Wiata gives a heart-warming but short performance as Aunt Bella. Rachel House, as Paula, the social worker, plays a character who had seen too many American news reports and documentaries. At one point she uses a bullhorn and takes charge of the search party making comments such as: “Well done boys…..this operation is over… have the right to remain silent”. Tuss, the dog, plays Tupac like a real pro and gets more screen time than Rima Te Wiata.

The film has an original music sound track done by Lukasz Buda, Samuel Scott and Conrad Wedde.

I found Hunt for the Wilderpeople to be a delightful comedy, which deals with serious subjects

Rated PG-13. 101 minutes. © Tami Smith, Guest Reviewer

Story: B+

Acting: B+

Technical: A

Overall: B+


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By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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