Hunt for the Wilderpeople

It’s felt like years since I’ve seen a film that’s made me belly laugh. You know, the laugh that is uncontrollable, unrelentless, right from your boots? That’s what this movie made me do; belly laugh. Even when I wasn’t laughing the smile on my face didn’t budge. 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump. Sadly I didn’t realise this until the end credits – otherwise I would have read it in preparation. However, judging from the description on Amazon, I think the film does the book proud.

This piece of cinema is written, directed and co-produced by Taika Waititi – the man who also brought us What We Do In The Shadows and Boy. Not only does he write, direct and produce, but this man finds the time to act in his creations as well. As a student studying film I have to say;


I want to be you.

I find it totally admirable to be able to do all of that and still create a fantastic film. 

Speaking of the film, it follows the story of a “difficult” young boy, Ricky (Julian Dennison), who has been placed in foster care. After the threat of being moved to another family (or worse; juvey), he runs away into the Bush. The film revolves around his growing relationship with Hec (Sam Neill) and the obstacles they face together. 

This description doesn’t sound very humorous, but I can assure you, it is. 

Many reviews I have seen have referred to it as “an off-beat comedy.” This description is spot on since the jokes and laughs in Hunt for the Wilderpeople are completely different to what you seen in so many other “comedies” this year. It feels like so many recent films rely on random humour, or fart jokes, or cheap gimmicks, whereas this film has a thought-out script that can’t help but make you chuckle. It just flows. I’ve only seen one other Waititi film (What We Do In The Shadows) but his style of humour is seamless and natural – it’s never forced or over the top; it just works. This is a talent that is very rare and I hope Waititi continues to write for years to come.

But Waititi’s comedy-writing ability would be for nothing if it wasn’t performed flawlessly by the actors and actresses. Julian Dennison is a young actor with a blindingly bright future and I cannot wait to see where this film will take him. He has the ability to be funny yet incredibly touching and charming in the heart-felt scenes. 

And there are heart-felt scenes. This is what gives this film the edge over any other old comedy film. It’s funny, but that’s not all it is – that’s not what it’s based on. The journey that the characters embark on is incredibly heart warming. Watching them grow and bounce off one another adds another layer to his film that satisfies the viewer more than any other comedy this year.

However, maybe this film isn’t for everyone. Two young boys sat in front of me in the cinema with their parents. Just before the film finished, I caught one of the boys sigh heavily and look to the ceiling with despair. I tried not to think about it and instead enjoy the last few minutes I had with Ricky and Hec. When leaving, almost every couple, group and person was saying how much they enjoyed the film. “That was fantastic.” “Yeah, it was good.” “That was hilarious!” However, the young boy turned to his mother and said, “Well, that was terrible.” I found it hard to believe. Not everyone shares the same sense of humour, but I’m not sure if Waititi’s sense of humour is for this age group. Like I mentioned above, maybe this film isn’t random, farty or gimmicky enough for younger viewers.

Furthermore, I wouldn’t recommend you watch this film if you are a dedicated animal rights activist. Since this film is set in the wild, and the characters are living like, well, Wilderpeople, there is a lot of killing and eating of animals. So #triggerwarning. 

Overall, Hunt for the Wilderpeople improved my Friday night dramatically. Never before have I witnessed so many people laugh so heartily in the cinema. Within the first 5 minutes, everyone was already giggling like crazy. I feel as if I need to watch the opening sequence again since so many people were laughing I felt I couldn’t hear every word. That’s an experience I have never had before. So, I would urge as many people as possible to watch Hunt for the Wilderpeople and get Waititi more well-known. 

This is also the second film I’ve reviewed and raved about that was directed by someone from New Zealand. 

What a talented country, eh?

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought of this film in comments below or tweet me at @freetheleaves.