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Hunt For The Wilderpeople Review

Ill Will Hunting

A film shot in New Zealand without magical rings, hobbits and Ian McKellen can still be a bit of a fantasy, even if unintended. Native Kiwi director Taika Waititi's "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" is a buddy picture where the buddies couldn't be more different, a staple of the genre.

Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a young, overweight, orphaned teenage boy who has run out of options because of his consistently bad personal behavior. The state, in the person of a social worker named Paula (Rachel Hall), has delivered Ricky to a couple living in an extremely rural area. It's his last chance to catch on with a family before he is forced to live in a form of detention. Paula is a buffoonish version of a nasty Nurse Ratched type. Her character is more annoying than anything else and each time she appears, she brings down the story, although maybe some of you might find her funny.

Bella (Rima Te Wiata) is the lady of the house who greets them and she immediately fawns all over Ricky, welcoming him into her home. Te Wiata's performance is brilliant, but we don't see enough of her. Her husband, Hector (Sam Neill), is a curmudgeonly loner who spends most of his time hunting for food, fixing things around the house, and avoiding human interaction. There is genuine love between the couple, though.

Ricky wants no part of his new "family" and runs away every chance he gets, but he never gets very far. When the authorities find out that Ricky is once again not fitting in, Paula and her assistant return to take him back into state custody, only to find that he is missing. Hector heads out to find him - and find him he does - but before they can head back home, Hector slips and breaks an ankle. Having no other options, the man and boy remain together while the ankle heals. When they are finally able to get going, they learn that the police are looking for both of them, and that the police believe Hector has abducted Ricky, with unsavory intentions for the boy.

The rest of "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" consists mostly of the authorities looking for Hector and Ricky. Waititi attempts to make this section both tense and funny. There is almost tension when they confront a wild boar. Almost. There are many stabs at humor, a few of which actually work. But there are no real stand-out moments that you'll be dying to tell your friends about. Waititi plays it a little too safe with the humor and the tension, leaving you wishing it was all a lot wilder.


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