Hunt for the Wilderpeople - Review

PG-13 | 1h 41min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Review - Matt Mungle

*In select theaters July 8th 2016*

SynopsisA national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush.

Review: There is a fine line between organic wit and a forced rhetoric. HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE tiptoes as close to that line as any film I have seen. The beauty of the cinematography and the likability of the characters almost keep you from caring though. And after it is all said and done you will feel all warm and cuddly inside. Not a bad exchange for bit of predictability. 

Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a product of the system. After bouncing from one foster home to another he ends up with a caring couple who bring him out of his plump shell. Ricky starts to actually open up and embrace his surroundings. When a turn of events puts him and his "Uncle" Hec (Sam Neill) on the run these two renegade bush beaters find out a lot about themselves and each other. 

Taika Waititi wrote and directs this comedy adventure that has a lot of heart. It never takes the darker path of films like Whale Rider or Beasts of the Southern Wild. This one has a lighter tone to it and never lingers very long on the more dramatic moments. That is one thing that makes this a stand out, but far from brilliant, piece of filmmaking. I often felt like Ricky's dialogue was too rehearsed. This is not to shine a negative light on young Julian. In fact he is quite funny and is able to spar with Neill effortlessly. They two of them together are an odd couple for sure. Ricky's character has the ability to overshadow Hec's but Waititi directs them in a way that this never happens.

In hind site you realize how very funny goofy this film is. Even with the subject matter of foster care and a young troubled boy you are not manipulated into sadness. When you first meet Ricky he is introduced with humor and a silly bit of conversation. You immediately know that this film is not going to take itself completely serious and neither should the viewer. It is going to be goofy and it is ok to point and laugh. In doing so you are able to breath easier and enjoy the journey more. When the drama seems to be escalating you don't worry too much because you know that a silly exchange is right around the bend.

This confidence will make many embrace it as soul cleansing and beautiful. That is fine. Again it does walk that line. But scripted wit is not the same as inherent charm. Taika certainly has a knack for writing and an even better sense of directing. He will find that greater balance and wow us in the future even more. In fact he did just that with the hilarious "What We Do in the Shadows" which is co-wrote. This one is certainly not as campy but you still get those lines that just floor you. 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is rated PG-13 for thematic elements including violent content, and for some language. It is void of vulgarity and crudeness. Older teens may find it too slow even with the silliness. Adults will enjoy the heartfelt approach but might be turned off or dulled by the constant attempt at side splitting one liners. Should you see it? By all means. I give it 3.5 out of 5 sausages. Not groundbreaking but enjoyable none the less. 

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