Hunt for the Wilderpeople

A truly original comedy from New Zealand, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an oddball adventure story about a juvenile orphan from the city named Ricky Baker, played brilliantly by the young New Zealand actor Julian Dennison. Bouncing from one foster home to another after committing various misdemeanors, Ricky finds himself adopted by an older couple living in the wilderness. He eventually develops an affectionate relationship with the effusive and doting Aunt Bella but finds difficulty get close to the grumpy and gritty Uncle Hec played by the always terrific Sam Neill. Clearly out of his element as a self-described gangster, Ricky gets lost in the “bush” with Hec, and they must find a way back home. All the while, a nationwide manhunt, led by the overly officious child welfare officer Paula and her dimwitted police companion, is underway for Ricky who is mistakenly believed to have been kidnapped by his adoptive uncle. The film evolves into a hilarious wild goose chase in which Ricky and Hec encounter truly “out-there” characters living in the wilds of New Zealand. The comic effect is reinforced by the absurdly over-the-top militaristic police force, especially the gung-ho antics of Paula. Besides being an uproariously good time of a movie, the film paints a rather endearing picture of a troubled orphan who is acting out as a form of crying out for help. After experiencing the adventure of getting lost, Ricky finally finds a semblance of family with Hec who teaches him how to survive in nature. Of indigenous New Zealand Maori heritage from the city, Ricky discovers familial love in the most unexpected place with Hec, a white backwoods curmudgeon. Overall, I would highly recommend the film and rank it as one of my favorite movies of the year. It would be almost impossible for a viewer to come away from the movie without a feeling of sheer delight: it has the perfect blend of humor and charm to create a genuinely memorable moviegoing experience.

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