“Hunt for the Wilderpeople”

I love seeing movies out of impulse because the experience is often rewarding. I wasn’t having a particularly good night last night and decided to go to the nearest theater; that’s when I discovered a gem called “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.”

“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is a New Zealand adventure dramedy told in a twelve-chapter narrative, and it focuses on Ricky (Julian Dennison). Ricky is a defiant orphan with a love of hip hop music and gangster movies, who’s sent to live in the country with foster parents Bella (Rima De Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill).

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!

After Bella dies and foster care decides to reclaim Ricky, Ricky runs away and Hec pursues him through the wilderness. This leads to an emotional, slapstick, and occasionally thrilling comedy of errors, as Hec wants to return to his old life and Ricky wants to live the gangster life.

Simply put, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is the best comedy I’ve seen all year. This is that rare comedy that has a variety of different jokes and comedic styles blended together. There are instances of dramatic comedy, physical comedy, dark comedy, and slapstick comedy in 101 great minutes.

Writer/director Taika Waititi (“What We Do in the Shadows”) clearly loves movies and it’s demonstrated here through several movie references, whether they are through dialogue or visuals. The climax alone is an expertly crafted car chase reminiscent of car chases we’ve seen in almost every Michael Bay movie.

Both De Wiata and Neill have great chemistry, whether it’s through Ricky’s innocence challenging Hec’s cynicism, or Ricky and Hec understanding each other through poems and conversations, these two are a great buddy comedy duo. This is also Neill’s best performance in years because we finally see he has some acting chomps (I’ve always found him underrated).

The strongest aspect of this movie is Hec and Ricky’s relationship with each other. We see they are both outcasts and are brought closer for that reason alone. However, they also demonstrate the importance of family (not trying to be preachy), and supporting each other’s beliefs and ideals.

I can’t recommend “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” enough, but this is a gem and easily one of the best movies I’ve seen all year.

Grade: A

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