film, hunt for the wilderpeople, new zealand, bechdel test fail, films, Sam Neill

Ricky Baker is the one 'bad kid' that you'll love

This film review contains spoilers. Be warned...

It is a very rare occurrence when a film draws me completely out of myself and immerses me fully in the action, but I am pleased to report that Hunt for the Wilderpeople did just that.

from left: Sam Neill, Rhys Darby, Julian Dennison and Taika Waititi.

I might be a bit biased though.

Taika Waititi is my favourite male filmmaker, and has continued to be so for some time. As a New Zealander myself, there's not many of us who make it onto the global film stage, and I am fully supportive of those who do. I went into this film knowing it would be good, but I had no idea about how good it would actually turn out to be.

Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a Bad Kid. Through apparent constant fault of his own, he’s been evicted from countless foster homes for the entirety of his life. His last chance before he gets put into juvie is at the home of Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hector (Sam Neill), a couple who cannot have children of their own.

Bella welcomes Ricky into their home immediately, but Hector, the quintessential monosyllabic Kiwi male, is less enthused.

Long story short, Bella dies, and Ricky, who has been treated terribly by the system for all of his life, takes off into the bush to run away. He is quickly joined by Hector, who doesn’t particularly like life outside of the bush anyhow.

This film was phenomenal. Waititi’s directorial style (I would perhaps even say auteuristic skill, but it might be a little early for that) shines brightly through in every scene, and the cinematography is excellent.

The film is funny (I mean, think about the underrated humour in Boy and What We Do in the Shadows and you’ll be there), violently Kiwi (in a less patriotic and more human way), and most of all, it has a heart.

In a world full of Hollywoodisms, of consistent beauty, cheap love stories, and insurmountable glitz, it is wonderful to meet a film that isn’t about that.

This film isn’t afraid to reflect real life.The two lead characters of this film are unashamedly human. Ricky is fat, sullen, and just generally a real kid. Hector is old, grumpy, and just generally a real-life old man.

(Sorry pals, but these stereotypes adhere pretty closely to real life).

How often do we see leads of Hollywood films being realistically old?

How often do we see leads of Hollywood films being anything other than extremely skinny or extremely muscular, caked in enough makeup to hide the tiniest imperfection?

We don’t.
And if we do, it’s very rare.

This film shows real life, through its falls and its flaws. We see death, we see anger, and we see characters growing together to become better people.

We also see a car chase across half of the Central Plateau, but that is also a spoiler.

Hector and Ricky sit in front of a lake

Good god, New Zealand looks wonderful on film. This landscape is beautiful. Have you all realised that by now? New Zealand is stunning and this film showcases some of the best bits of it.

All in all, this film is a tribute to storytelling. It’s a Kiwi fairytale in a way, with imagination and haiku driving the story along and making this film more than just a 100-minute walk in the bush.

Sure, there’s some issues with the CGI, and the plot requires some suspension of disbelief, but it’s wonderful. It’s a beautiful film, both plot-wise and visuals-wise.

If you’re tossing up between watching Bad Moms, Blair Witch, or Hunt for the Wilderpeople this weekend, watch the film that shows that family doesn't necessarily have to be about blood.

Hector and one of his dogs

Plus Wilderpeople has super cute dogs in it.

Seriously, that should be enough of an explanation.
It’s wonderful, definitely my favourite Waititi movie (and I live in the city where What We Do in the Shadows was filmed), and just a really chill way to spend 100 minutes of your time.

Four and a half stars.

Emma Maguire