2. Hunt For the Wilderpeople
It’s a story about survival, death, an international manhunt, and a mistaken child abduction and molestation charge in what is the funniest and most heartwarming movie of the year. Hmm… that’s sounds weird when you read it back.
It was the closest of calls for my number one movie of 2016. I feel like Wilderpeople might should have been 1-a, calling it 2 seems disparaging of it’s tremendous quality. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the newest, pre Thor Ragnarok, film from former Flight of the Conchords contributor, Taika Waititi. The dry humor from that show, as well as his previous movie, What We Do in the Shadows, remains but unlike those projects, this picture has amazing heart, and unless you’re void of emotion, you’ll probably get a little weepy eyed. I’m actually just starting to realize that almost all of my favorite movies this year made me nearly cry. Goodbye to the little testosterone I had, you served me well.
The story starts with an inner city kid named Ricky, who has bounced around foster homes for most of his life, and then finds himself in the New Zealand bush with a very rural, living off the grid type of family. Bella, Ricky’s new foster mom, is delighted to have him even though Ricky doesn’t want to be there and a Bella’s husband, Hec, is equally disinterested in the new arrangement. Bella is one of the most endearing characters of the movie, her optimism in trying to help Ricky out, despite his troubles and many attempts at running away is really a beautiful thing. Hec is trying to stay out of it, but you can see he really loves his wife, so he’s willing to go along with it. Some unfortunate circumstances happen that I’d rather not spoil and child protection comes after Ricky. He escapes into the bush and, reluctantly, Hec guides him through the wilderness and helps him survive, all the while escaping the agents. From there, it’d be a shame to spoil anything else, so go… watch it… it’s great.
Sam Neil plays Hec, and is just magnificent. He’s like an extreme version of Jurassic Park’s Alan Grant. Hates kids, but winds up having to help them survive… except fewer dinosaurs, but 100% more warthogs. Ricky is instantly, classically, quotable and played, perfectly, by Julian Dennison. Of all the great performances, a favorite of mine is when the two eventually run into a character named Psycho Sam played by, who I consider to be one of the funniest people on the planet, another Conchords alumnus, Rhys Darby. He’s not only the greatest @Midnight player and scene stealer as the leader of the Werewolves (not Swearwolves) from What We Do in the Shadows but is also exceptional in this movie for the little bit of screen time he gets. I’d be happy for spin off film of nothing but his character.
This is in no way a conventional story and a difficult pitch for those who aren’t familiar with the creative team’s previous work, but it’s,for sure, worth checking it out, it’s, pretty much, a perfect film.