Hunt for the Wilderpeople – 2016

Written and Directed by  Taika Waititi
Starring  Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rhys Darby, Rachel House

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a pleasant movie that touches on serious things in a pleasant way. It doesn’t want to do more than that, even if some may want to believe it does. That we get to see some beautiful scenery in the meantime doesn’t hurt.

Ricky Baker (Dennison) is delivered to a rural home bordering the New Zealand bush to live in the foster care of Bella (Te Wiata) and her husband Uncle Hec (Neill). He resists just a little, but soon is feeling at home with the love and attention he is receives. Bella is easy to get along with, Hec resists just a little. Bella suddenly dies, placing the new family in jeopardy when child services informs them Ricky must be taken back.

Through a series of misunderstandings, Ricky takes off for the bush soon followed by Hec and the manhunt for the “wilderpeople” is on.

The movie is a nice one, but it treads into wackiness so often it is hard to take seriously as it one could with even a few tweaks. The story is at its best when Bella is on screen, but she leaves so early we are then forced to see Neill and Dennison work out the same type of vibe Disney had with Up without nearly the amount of poignancy.

If they had kept the story with the two leads, it would be a fine film. Neill can do this role in his sleep, and Dennison is more engaging than most Disney kids. Unfortunately they go a little too often to the well of hijinks with House’s welfare worker who acts as though she were Sheriff Buford T. Justice. This kind of humor works when one is 10, maybe, but it gets old quick here.

There are other bright spots, such as when Ricky comes across a beautiful girl on a horse, then meets her dad.

Overall, the film floats just above average. It’s harmless fun.

(*** out of *****)

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