Taika Waititi’s follow-up to 2014’s excellent What We do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople centers around Ricky, a seemingly troubled child who is passed from foster family to foster family by an uncaring child protection agency before finally settling in a scenic slice of New Zealand bushland with loving Aunt Bella and her curmudgeon of a husband Heck. Tragedy suddenly strikes the family, unsettling this harmonious and long awaited balance in Ricky’s life, leading to him running away and being subsequently lost in the surrounding bushland. Once Heck becomes injured whilst looking for the boy, the two become stuck in the wilderness and suddenly embroiled in a nation-wide manhunt after various conclusions are furiously jumped to in light of the pair’s absence.
Those familiar with Waititi’s particular brand of humour, that which buoyed What We Do in the Shadows, Eagle Vs Shark and his occasional work on Flight of the Conchords, will be pleased to know that it is present and correct in his most recent effort. Hilarious though it is, there is a darker flavour to his humour this time around as he subtly skewers holier-than-thou government institutions; the vicious state of news media and the general public’s naïve readiness to jump on its bandwagon. It all works incredibly well and the overused phrase laugh-out-loud can be legitimately attributed to it. This is owed to Waititi’s razor-sharp writing as much as it is the impressive performances of his players. Our two leads, Sam Neil’s Heck and Julian Dennison’s Ricky, have a palpable chemistry which is an absolute joy to watch. Further to these two, Rachel House is obviously enjoying herself in the role as the intense child protection officer Paula, turning in a capable and altogether hilarious comedic performance.
For the most part, this equates to a charming, funny and good-natured romp with a bit more under its bonnet than lesser comedies of a similar ilk. It must be noted that it does at times become rather formulaic and the ending is not all that it could have been but these are minor complaints in an otherwise stellar comedy.
Image: Gage Skidmore; Flickr.com