Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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Led by a star-making turn from Julian Dennison, Taika Waititi's vibrant adventure-comedy is endlessly entertaining and equally as endearing. Thor 3 is in good hands.

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Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a wonderful construction of a filmmaker’s imagination running wild and running free. Combining comedy and adventure with a strong emotional core, with elements of the surreal and enough charm to warm even the coldest hearts, the film is a total triumph of storytelling, acting and pure entertainment.

Young Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) has been moved around from home to home due to his unruly behavior and troubled upbringing. But things start to look up for the young Kiwi lad when he is taken to Hec and Bella (Sam Neil and Rima Te Wiata), a farming couple who live on the edge of the New Zealand bush, a vast range of wilderness covering mountains and valleys as far as the eye can see. Despite this seemingly pleasant new life for Ricky (new dog named Tupac and all), tragedy strikes and he runs away into the bush, leading Hec to go after him resulting in their once affection-less relationship growing deeper as they find themselves on the adventure of a lifetime.

Sam Neil is perfectly cast as the cantankerous Uncle Hec, his performance is fantastically gruff and his comedic chops are impeccable, but his more heartfelt moments are executed to perfection among the overall lighthearted nature of the film. But it’s young Julian Dennison who truly steals the show. A blistering bundle of charm and charisma, Dennison delivers a terrific anchoring performance as the very innocent yet brave Ricky, much like Neil his comedic sensibilities are outstanding but he delivers real heart to the film as well. The two have fantastic chemistry and there’s rarely a dull moment when the two are onscreen together. This isn’t to discredit the supporting cast though; Rachel House, Oscar Knightley and a scene-stealing Rhys Darby provide fantastic performances as well. There really isn’t a bad performance in the film, Waititi gets the best out of his actors and they deliver it in spades.

Speaking of Waititi, his screenplay is stellar. The script perfectly balances comedy and emotion, all whilst telling a thoroughly unique and engaging story. There is many a line in Hunt for the Wilderpeople that we will surely be hearing people quote for years to come. Equally, Waititi’s direction and vision is awe-inspiring, this is a director bursting at the seems with big ideas and oozing with creativity. Whilst the film may not be a fantasy, it still strikes that sweet spot of being wonderfully imaginative and it left me with a smile on my face the whole time. It’s a film that is executed to perfection.

What ultimately makes Hunt for the Wilderpeople a truly special film is just how fresh the whole experience is, there really isn’t anything like it. A glorious tale of survival, bravery and family, it’s the kind of film that reminds me why cinema is so magical and such a powerful experience.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople, directed by Taika Waititi, is distributed in the UK by Vertigo Films. Certificate 12a.

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The Edge's Film Editor 2017-2018, David has an unabashed love for all things Dave Grohl, Jack Black and Lord of the Rings. A compulsive liar who shouldn't be trusted, David once beat legendary actor David Hasselhoff in a hot dog eating contest and is best friends with Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, they speak on the phone three times a week.

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