HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE came out of left field (the one in the South Pacific) in 2016, winning critics, charming audiences, copping multiple awards. A finder and a keeper, hunt out this cheeky New Zealand sweetheart and join the escape.
‘Ricky’, a 13-year old Maori teenager (Julian Dennison) is a chunky, sullen juvenile delinquent foster child, too much of a handful for adoptive families, and a headache to his hardass Child Welfare officer (Rachel House). Dumped onto a couple who live out in the bush, he’s won over by the kindly ‘Bella’ (Rima Te Riata), but gruff ‘southern man’ ‘Hec’ (Sam Neill ,69) is not all that thrilled. When Ricky runs away, savvy bushman Hec tracks him, but their accident-delayed absence is misunderstood by authorities and a chase is on, followed on TV by the nation. Revealing more would cheat the delights and surprises of this picaresque folk tale, an inventive comic lark laced with digestible bits of sadness.
Writer/director Taika Waititi started working on drafts a decade earlier, adapting “Wild Pork and Watercress”, a 1996 bestseller from Barry Cress, a colorful and controversial New Zealand tale spinner. Shot on locations in the North Island, in the Central Plateau region and in the Waitakere Ranges near Auckland, the $2,500,000 mini-adventure took off, winning scads of awards and hiking a worldwide take of $23,200,000. Ticket sales showed fully one-quarter of the entire population of New Zealand went to see it.
Consistently clever, both tart and goofy, with great work from the whole cast, their jousting backed by a novel soundtrack composed and played by Lukasz Pawel Buda, Samuel Scott and Conrad Wedde.
With Rhys Darby, Oscar Kightley, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Cohen Holloway, Troy Kingi, and writer-director Waititi as ‘the Minister’. 101 minutes. A choice nugget, this.