Hunt for the Wilderpeople: The movie, a review, and some thoughts

Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a defiant 12-year-old city kid who finds himself on the run with his cantankerous foster uncle Hec (Sam Neill) in the million-hectare New Zealand bush outside Hec's place. A national Kiwi manhunt follows, and the two are forced to put aside their differences and work together to survive in this very funny and heartfelt adventure.

I laughed out loud more times than I can remember in recent years in a movie theatre. Apologies to the folks at the Randwick Ritz on Sunday arvo. This buddy movie was at times "Thelma and Louise" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and at other times it was Bing Crosby and Bob Hope on the road to Singapore. The one-liners were precious; the timing was impeccable; the scenery stunning. I liked it all. No wonder Rotten Tomatoes gave this a 100 rating.

Murray from Flight of the Concords (Rhys Darby), who has been in much more since 2009 when that Kiwi series finished, plays a wild bushman flawlessly. He is not alone in flawless role-playing. In fact the entire cast is so full of caricatures it's super-predictable. But that doesn't diminish the effect any more than our knowing Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner are going to have different results at the painted cave. In fact, perhaps it's the predictability of the uncle and kid in their mis-adventures, the trio of bounty hunters, the mad Child Services Worker, Paula (Rachel House) and her offsider, each person in the cast is cartoon-like, and yet believable, that makes this such a good movie.

My favourite of course, was Aunty (Rima Te Wiata) whose lines to Ricky, and her birthday song to him (apparently written on the spot as required) endear her to everyone in the cinema.

Odd things. The credits include sections headed "Wildercrew" and "Wildercast", with the latter including the subheading "Wilderdogs". I have no idea what that all means. A very fun trivia note: The Toyota that Hec and Ricky use to escape from Psycho Sam's hideout is called Crumpy, in reference to Barry Crump, the author of the book on which the screenplay was based. An identical vehicle was driven by Crump in a long-running series of Toyota commercials in New Zealand, where Barry played a bushman taking a city slicker named Scotty for a drive through the bush. Scotty was played by Lloyd Scott, who appears in this film as "Tourist". Some fun connections with Kiwi tv-cinema history.

No spoiler, no spoiler alert. It's a classic buddy movie with great lines, fantastic scenery, and painful ties between the two protagonists. You will enjoy this no matter who you are, or from what country you come. A good laugh, even at predictable pacing, will be worth your while. Let me know what you think after you see it.


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