First, while at the theater for another movie, I saw the preview for Taika Waititi‘s Hunt For the Wilderpeople, a previously unknown entity to me, and was surprised by its charm. Even more surprised to find out how well reviewed it is—currently at 99% on Rotten Tomatoes.
And then I actually saw it and joined the ranks of fans (though the New Zealand accents are a bit tough).
Here’s the trailer that had pulled me in:
Miriam Di Nunzio, Chicago Sun-Times, sets up the story:
The kid in question is pudgy and feisty Ricky Baker (the endearing Julian Dennison, in what’s sure to be his breakout performance), who’s spent most of his 13 years on earth moving from foster home to foster home, learning to be that tough little kid on the outside, while writing and reciting haikus to reveal his true inner feelings. We meet him as he’s being ‘delivered’ to his final chance at a normal life, the farmhouse of his ‘aunt’ Bella (Rima Te Wiata in wonderful turn) and her partner Hec, the …cantankerous sixtysomething (Sam Neill in a marvelous performance). The couple lives a bucolic farm life, with only the occasional slaughtering of wild boars with knives and their bare hands, and taking in rescue dogs and, in the case of Ricky, a rescue child. There is much love on the farm, thanks mostly to Bella, and life is good until her sudden passing sets in motion the rest of this darkly humorous film, based on the best-selling novel ‘Wild Pork and Watercress,’ by the late Barry Crump.
The conclusion of the same reviewer:
‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is all about life-changing moments and the people who are the catalysts. It’s about learning from those around you, regardless of age or circumstance. It’s about learning to trust in yourself and the meaningful people around you. It’s about family and realizing the only ‘normal’ family is one filled with love and understanding and discipline and strength of character, and sometimes tragedy. As the happy-go-lucky Bella tells the newly arrived Ricky early on, ‘I’m so happy we found you; sorry it took so long.’ Home is where the heart is.
Other Selected Reviews of Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: “Every once in a while, a small, unheralded film comes along, so smart and funny, such a pleasure to experience, you can’t believe your luck. ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is such a film.”
Tirdad Derakhshani, Philly.com: “…magically taps into the logic, thought processes, and emotions of a child. It’s a rich, strange, and wondrous world.”
Tom Long, Detroit News: “‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is a hoot with heart.”