After writing, directing and starring in 2014’s hilarious vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows, Taika Waititi returns with Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a unique buddy-comedy that is easily the funniest of the year.
Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a juvenile delinquent in foster care, a defiant, pudgy, wannabe rapper who expresses his distaste for the world via haikus
(sample title: “Kenny, You Wanker”). Dumped into the care of Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hector (Sam Neil), a farmer couple deep in the New Zealand countryside, Ricky alternates between plotting his daily escape attempt, while trying to win the affection of the stoic “Uncle Hec.”
When Bella unexpectedly passes away, Ricky runs into the surrounding bush with his trusty dog Tupac to escape being sent back into the system. He’s soon joined by Hector, who has nothing to return to following the death of his wife. The unlikely duo then set off on a wild adventure in the bush, trying to evade an ever-growing police presence in search of the “kidnapped” Ricky and his “pervert captor.”
Waititi sets up the film like a fairy tale, complete with chapter titles and an epic journey against nearly impossible odds, that just happens to be filled with some of the funniest moments of any film this year (or since What We Do in the Shadows, really).
The film truly shines when it focuses on the inter-generational odd-couple pairing of Ricky and Hector, a pair so laughably at odds in every way that you can’t help but hope for them to eventually join forces.
Waititi manages to imbue the film with some real heart to temper the absurdity of the story, with Rickey’s pain at being abandoned as a child providing the bittersweet counterpart to his gangsta persona.
With a tone somewhere between Rambo and Rushmore, Hunt for the Wilderpeople has all the makings of a true cult classic. With Waititi currently directing the next Thor film, here’s hoping he can inject some of the “majestical” nature of this film into that bloated franchise.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is in theatres July 22nd.