The glorious Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a real find

You’ll be so glad you tracked down HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE – one of the most charming and original comedies you’re ever likely to see.

Oh my goodness me. What a wonderful experience you have in store for you if you’ve not yet seen HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE. It’s glorious! This New Zealand independent movie is one of the very best from 2016, actually named ‘Film of the Year’ by Empire magazine and rightly so as it’s one of the most charming and original comedies you’re likely to see.

Director Taika Waititi and co-screenwriter Barry Crump have taken the wonderfully titled novel Wild Pork and Watercress about the meeting of a very odd couple indeed and fashioned a wacky, exciting and ultimately emotional film. But as Empire astutely pointed out in their review, this movie is “emotional without being overwrought, quirky without being twee, hilarious without losing touch of the story or characters”. And it’s that combination that will make HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE win a place in your heart.

Julian Dennison is Ricky Baker in Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Julian Dennison is Ricky Baker

The rebellious teenager Ricky Baker (a very, very winning Julian Dennison) is given one last chance to mend his errant ways when he’s housed far away from the big city at the farm run by Bella (a lovely cameo from Rima Te Waita) and her husband Hec. Played by the fabulous Sam Neill, Hec is a man for whom the term ‘gruff’ might have been invented and needless to say, he doesn’t take much of an interest in Ricky on his arrival.

But Bella is smitten. With his baseball cap, colourful clothes, chunky sneakers and gangsta-like turn of phrase, Ricky cuts an imposing figure but he’s really just looking to feel part of a home – something which Bella senses. Because after creating a riot in a string of foster homes, if Ricky doesn’t get on with his new foster parents, he’ll be housed somewhere a lot worse, much to the glee of local community policewoman Paula (a very funny Rachel House).

When Ricky’s birthday comes around not long after his arrival, he’s treated to a cake and a song by Bella entitled ‘Ricky Baker ah ah’ that I promise will have you humming it for days after. But the birthday proves a little bit of turning point for Ricky and it seems he may now show an interest in turning his life around.

Julian Dennison as Ricky and Sam Neill as Hec in Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Julian Dennison as Ricky and Sam Neill as Hec

Of course, it can’t all be plain sailing. Soon circumstances throw Ricky and Hec together and a journey off into the bush sees a delightful if a somewhat antagonistic relationship between them begins to form. Constantly bickering as to their lot, the pair then finds themselves on the run when rumours start that Hec may have kidnapped Ricky. Nothing could be further from the truth – in fact, it’s possibly the other way round – but the authorities don’t see it that way as the unlikely duo is pursued by Paula and half the state police force.

At one point, Ricky comes across a wanted poster for the pair and in reading it, delivers probably the best line of the year in a movie: “‘Faulkner is cauc-asian’ – well, they got that wrong because you’re obviously white.”

Waititi presents all this as a kind of delightfully ramshackle fable. The redeemed Ricky and Hec chased by the nasty corporate bods, with you wishing with all your might that good will prevail. There’s tons of humour along the way, from the cautious attempts at a friendship between Ricky and Hec to the out-and-out hilarity of New Zealand comedian Rhys Darby as the appropriately named Psycho Sam, whom the pair meet at one point.

As Waititi’s next gig is helming the somewhat larger Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok, the signs are very good that he’ll bring an extremely independent spirit to that franchise. But before then, do yourself a favour and buy, rent, steal a copy of HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE – a tiny but very big-hearted film you’ll treasure.