Hunt for the Wilderpeople (12A.)
Directed by Taika Waititi.
Starring Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne and Rhys Darby. 101 mins
A few weeks ago when a critic-selected list of the best films of the century so far, the one with Mulholland Drive at number one, was announced many real people complained that it was just full of obscure, boring films that critics liked and none that real people liked (except Mad Max: Fury Road and as it's on that list you're not so sure about that one now.) This week you are going to see lots of rave reviews from film critics about a New Zealand film with an odd title from a director with a hard to pronounce name and I'd just like to take this opportunity to reassure all you real people out there that this time, we know what are talking about: we speak for you all. You're going to love this - probably be one of your films of the year.
Waititi has the gift for making creative, innovative movies that connect and entertain audiences. This latest is like a less fiddly Wes Anderson movie – quirky certainly but never precious and very funny. The bulk of the story is a man hunt in the forest wilderness but possibly the film is at its very best in its first half hour when the troubled, tubby urban youth Ricky (Dennison) gets accustomed to his new life in a foster home deep in the country side with patient and loving Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and gruff Hec (Neill.) The film's comic timing is immaculate, it makes you laugh out loud and delivers all the character beats without you even noticing. If there is a flaw it is that towards the end it tries a bit too hard, trying to squeeze out a bit more pathos and slip in a nostalgic homage to seventies movies.
The director grabs the funniest role for himself, a brief cameo as a priest handling a funeral. (As a performer he is quite similar to Richard Ayode, another director stuck on the wheel of recurring Wes Anderson comparisons.) From this he has been co-opted into the Marvel factory, to direct the latest Thor movie, 4/3 as I like to think of it. It’ll be a stretch, but maybe he’ll have the talent to make a Thor film interesting.