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Arts and Entertainment Tuesday, Jul. 26, 2016 5 years ago

Film review: 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople'

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The hunt is on in this delightful action comedy.

The film, "Hunt for the Wilderpeople," is a refreshing break from what's being offered in theaters this summer. It's also quite a departure for director Taika Waititi (aka Taika Cohen), whose last movie was "What We Do in the Shadows."

Set in the New Zealand bush, this action-comedy centers on the relationship between a troubled 13-year-old unwanted foster child and his cantankerous new caretaker. Ricky (Julian Dennison) is welcomed into his new home by the sweet, loving Bella (Rima Te Wiata), but not by her grumpy husband, Hec (Sam Neill). Soon after Ricky arrives, tragedy strikes, which compels Ricky to run away into the perilous bush. Hec goes looking after him while being pursued by Paula (Rachel House), an overly zealous social worker. She's convinced that Hec has kidnapped Ricky. A manhunt ensues.

While on the lam, Hec and Ricky bond through a series of hilarious mishaps as they evade the authorities. The people they meet along the way are as colorful as they are dimwitted. The suspense builds as searchers come out in droves to collect the bounty put upon the duo's heads. But as Hec observes, "They couldn't find a clown in a circus."

Needless to say, the scenery is spectacular. The New Zealand bush country is about as beautiful as it gets. Waititi's camera captures the serenity of the landscapes, while also exploring the dangerous terrains. The scoring is spot-on. From hypnotic to hip-hop, the music perfectly permeates the soul of this lovely film.

But it's the delightful dynamic between Neill and Dennison that draws you into their story. Ricky's sarcasm plays flawlessly off Hec's dismissive demeanor. As their relationship evolves, nothing about it seems pushed or phony. On the other hand, House's performance as the obsessed social worker is so brilliantly exaggerated it works well. It's a casting coup.

"Hunt for the Wilderpeople" (a play on wilderbeast) feels like a throwback to movies made in the ’50s. It's a simple story, inhabited by uncomplicated individuals making their way in life as best they can. The film is rated PG13 and should appeal to kids and adults alike. But beware — there's lots of critter-killin' goin' on. Hey, it's the bush, mate. 

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