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Hunt for the Wilderpeople


Stars: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Oscar Kightley, Cohen Holloway, Stan Walker, Mike Minogue, Rhys Darby, Troy Kingi, Taika Waititi, Hamish Parkinson, Stu Giles, Lloyd Scott

Director: Taika Waititi

Films with genuine charm (as opposed to Hollywood’s regulation by-numbers sugar-sodden storyline seasonings and equally clichéd tropes) are depressingly few nowadays.

So praise is due New Zealand screenwriter (from the novel Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump) and director Taika Waititi for a sweet (but not tooth-rotting) comedy adventure that was one of the most delightful movies I have enjoyed for a long time.

Julian Dennison’s portrait of a rejected, defiantly overweight and self-contained young city kid, a “bad egg” who is given his last chance to avoid juvenile lockup by being sent to live with new foster parents Rima Te Wiata, who greets him with “You’re the guy who ate all the pies” and grumpy Sam Neill at their isolated New Zealand farm.

Unexpectedly, the lad finds himself living in a happy home for the first time – until Te Wiata dies.

“I’m going bush for a while” says heartbroken Neill. And Denison and his faithful dog Tupac join him on the run.

And, slowly and convincingly, the distinctly odd couple slowly bond (in the jungle Dennison seeks toilet paper only to be advised by Neill to “Use a leaf “ and then usefully, tells him to bury it) and soon, dubbed outlaws by the authorities, the wilderpeople trigger a national manhunt…

While the key storyline leads to a predictable (but happily justified) conclusion, getting there is great fun, decorated with everything from pursuing police helicopters and a wild boar, a girl on a horse and some engaging off centre characters (“Is it a man or a bush?” asks branches-and-leaves covered nutter “Psycho Sam”) and propelled by Neill and Dennison’s spot-on performances.

Praise, too, is due to Lachlan Milne’s attractive cinematography of and well-chosen and attractive New Zealand north island locations.

All in all, a delightful family film to be enjoyed by all ages (the 12A certificate covers an occasional Channel 4-letter word which, regrettably, most youngsters will have already savoured at school).

Alan Frank

New Zealand 2016. UK Distributor: Vertigo Films. Colour.
101 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 01 Oct 2016