director Taika Waititi
viewed: 07/23/2016 at Embarcadero Center Cinema, SF, CA
Taika Waititi’s star is rising, shooting off sparks like crazy. A couple earlier films may have laid some groundwork, but after co-directing the instant cult classic What We Do in the Shadows (2014) with Jemaine Clement, Waititi parlayed the directorial role in the upcoming Thor movie. And in between those things, he made this odd and charming little feature.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople brings backwoods curmudgeon Uncle Hec (Sam Neill) together with chubby young Maori teen Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) together in a strange bedfellows friendship movie. Waititi adapted the film from a 1986 novel, Wild Pork and Watercress by New Zealand author Barry Crump. These buddies are thrown together when Hec’s wife Aunt Bella (Rime Te Wiata), the giant-hearted backwoods auntie, drops dead. A couple of twists find the duo on the run in the dramatic and stunning New Zealand wilderness with more benign than malevolent police forces after them.
Julian Dennison is by and far the heart of the picture. Neill is good, looking a lot like Ernest Hemingway, as the wily grump. It’s a sweet and amusing film. My 14 year old son loved it, certain sure my daughter and ex-wife would enjoy it too.
I liked it overall, niggled a bit by some of the music, some of the flourishes and editing, which infect the tone a bit. It’s inherently likable. But I didn’t love it. As many have noted, Waititi’s upcoming Thor film should prove interesting.