Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Sundance Review)
Known for his quirky sense of humor, director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Eagle vs Shark) adds another film to his growing Sundance portfolio with the light-spirited adventure Hunt for the Wilderpeople. There’s nothing complicated about this zany New Zealand-set comedy, which seems aimed at the same younger demographic who fell in love with Napoleon Dynamite. Though there’s some adult humor sprinkled throughout, it’ll be the young adult audience laughing at every gag while older viewers eventually grow tired of the cheap laughs (especially the repeated fat jokes) and dispensable storyline.
Based on Barry Crump’s novel Wild Pork and Watercress, Hunt for the Wilderpeople begins by introducing us to a “very bad egg” named Ricky (Julian Dennison), a mischievous overweight foster child who moves in with a family living on a remote farm. While not very thrilled about his new arrangement, Ricky warms up to the caring foster aunt (Rima Te Wiata), and eventually to her grumpy husband (Sam Neill). But when family services threaten to take Ricky out of the foster system, he makes a run for it in the New Zealand wilderness. The only person to find Ricky is his foster uncle. For survival purposes, the two form an unlikely bond and work together to evade the authorities searching for them.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople contains similar New Zealand humor found in hit television show Flight of the Conchords, even borrowing the same “it’s like The Lord of the Rings” punch line and the hilarious Rhys Darby (who steals the entire film in his small role). While most of the humor and wacky shenanigans become tiresome by the end, those looking for some light entertainment will find just that.