Hunt for the Wilderpeople | Movie Review

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE is the latest romp of explosive joy from Taika Waititi, one of the most unique directors of now who has slammed home-runs with BOY and then WHAT WE DID IN THE SHADOWS. Waititi is also well known for his work on FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS and has hit the U.S. BIG TIME scoring the director’s gig for THOR: RAGNAROK. His farcical whimsical hilarity really does set him apart and makes all of his movies MUST SEE MATERIAL. HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE will release in Australia this Thursday 26th May from the delightful distributors Madman Movies, it is rated PG and runs 93minutes of pure brilliance.


Hunt for the Wilderpeople Movie Poster image



HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE starts with endearing and quirky lady, Bella Faulkner (Rima Te Wiata) and her grumpy introverted husband Hector (Sam Neill) adopting Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), a disruptive kid who has been booted out of every other foster home he has been to, it is the end of the line for Ricky, if this fails he is off to juvie until he ages out, something that the child services lady is determined to see happen. Ricky is a gangster wanna-be in a tubby little NZ kid’s body. The Faulkners live in remote New Zealand and Ricky tries to escape a few times but usually fails in a few hundred metres, circumstances see both Ricky and Hector stuck ways out in the National Parklands and the need for Ricky to be handed back to child services. Hector gets injured and they have to fend for themselves for weeks in the forest, unbeknownst to them Hector is now wanted for kidnapping and a crazy insane child services agent, Paula (Rachel House), is on their trail like the original Terminator. One thing leads to another and nothing helps their vagabond fugitive status. 


Hunt for the Wilderpeople Sam Neill image


HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE is based on the novel from Barry Crump, (15 May 1935 – 3 July 1996), a New Zealand author of semi-autobiographical comic novels based on his image as a rugged outdoors man. In New Zealand this guy is basically Hemingway or Banjo Paterson. Waititi masterfully weaves his interpretation of the story into a real life version of Pixar’s UP, all they are missing is a balloon house :). And it is this same sentiment as UP that makes this film so whimsically heart-warming and the characters so loveable. The chemistry between Hector and Ricky is superb, and Waititi’s skill in flowing with ease from side splitting hysterical humour to touching dark drama is a master stroke that sets him apart from the comedic directors of the U.S. because he doesn’t follow tried and tested formulaic humour, he is more akin to modern day Monty Python.

Sam Neill and Julian Dennison are perfect in this movie, I can see no one else doing these roles, I loved everything they did and I love how this film can occasionally make fun of a fat kid but in no way make it offensive, another skill that must be attributed to Waititi. Then there is the side characters you meet along the way who provide as much humour as seen in THE PRINCESS BRIDE, Paula (Rachel House) is a machine of humour, every time I saw her I was laughing before she even spoke and her sidekick, Officer Andy (Oscar Kightley), delivers some great lines. Waititi himself destroys a scene as a Minister who is from another planet of mentality. Then there is the absolutely insane Psycho Sam played by the always off his rocker comedic genius Rhys Darby (also famous for FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS). “What is the fastest way out of here?” “Jetpack,” “Do you have a jetpack?,” “No.” Cracks me up every time I here it.


Hunt for the Wilderpeople Julian Dennison image


The regular use of haiku from Ricky was also another highlight of the movie as was his gangster wanna-be talk to harshly conflict with the complete opposite environment, again Waititi used these to hilarity, seeing this at the critics screening was awesome, I have never seen so many critics laugh so hard, something that will greatly benefit this movie, a move regularly mentioned as being the best film from Sundance this year. HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE is also due for a U.S. release later this year and is the first home-grown movie in NZ history to take more than $1MIL in its opening week.

Another thing that I shall offer further praise to Waititi for is the execution of the action, not something he is regularly used to but as he is about to jump into THOR: RAGNAROK, as a director of a franchise film that will no doubt have over a quarter of a billion dollar budget I am sure the action sequences were heavily scrutinised by the Marvel peeps. Likewise the CGI from WETA involving a very large pig was seamlessly inserted.

“Faulkner is cauc-asian” – well, they got that wrong because you’re obviously white.” Hahaha – the dialogue in this movie is GOLD.


Hunt for the Wilderpeople movie image


For me HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE is, I think, my first perfect movie of 2016. It is a perfectly balanced comedy, drama, action, nature, odd couple, coming of age gangster, on-the-run survival New Zealand movie that shows you “shit just got real.” And I never even mentioned a soundtrack you will want, a dog called Tupac and cinematography that effortlessly yet again shows the audience how New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on planet earth. This movie is MUST SEE, it releases this Thursday – put it in your diary now!!


5 Pops



 is the owner and editor of Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. He loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. All the social media links to the right and up will allow you to abuse, troll or stalk him :).

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.


Privacy Preference Center