Arielrocks5’s review published on Letterboxd:
While watching this film, I kept thinking of how much of it felt more like a visual novel than something akin to a regular three act structure. This was mostly down to the fact that it features several title cards revealing different chapters of the story, completely with different titles. To my surprise, it was in fact based on a novel (one I haven't read) and suddenly all the pieces began to make sense.
"Hunt for the Wilderpeople" is an easy going dive through the woods of the New Zealand Bush. Following two people on the run from a man hunt against them after a couple of mishaps that happened a couple days after they ended up getting lost.
These two people are Julian Dennison's Ricky and Sam Neill's Hector, one a 13 year old sent to Hector and his wife (played by the same actress who played the mother in "Housebound" ((another really good New Zealand movie I'd highly recommend), which was awesome!) to take care of him due to him having no real parents of his own.
It's a simple set up with nice enough characters to go along with, but what really elevates it above anything else is how good the actual presentation of these things happens to be.
My only real experience with Taika Waititi was his collaboration with "Flight of the Conchords" creator, Jemaine Clement, in their hilarious mockumentary "What We Do in the Shadows", so I really didn't know exactly what to expect from his skills as a director on his own.
To my surprise, it's him alone that I think really makes the movie go from fairly average adventure "learning to bond with grumpy old man" story, into something really worth giving more credit to. From the gorgeous shots of the New Zealand wilderness from both below and above, to the wonderful Cinematography by Lachlan Milne, to the really well constructed writing and structure of having each part of the movie be in chapters is what really makes the movie work above anything else.
It also helps that you have two compelling lead characters that you get to know as people and see their struggles throughout the picture, what with being hunted down by most of New Zealand's police force among trying to survive in the bush for months on end.
Their performances are great as well. Both Julian Dennison and Sam Neill work off each other nicely and even offer some genuinely funny moments of dialogue during some of the more heavier moments of the film.
I wouldn't really say it's a laugh out loud hilarious ride from start to finish (admittedly, some of the fat jokes during the beginning were pretty poorly timed) as much would say it's a film that features a compelling story and presentation that happens to both make you laugh as much as it makes you feel a wider range of emotions from the very start to the very end.
This is one I think will get better as soon as I give it a revisit in the future, not because I feel like I've missed some deeper subtext and jokes underneath, but because I actually feel like spending time with these two people again and reliving their journey and maybe find even more enjoyment then.
As it stands, "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" is one of the better movies I can recommenced to pretty much anyone looking for a nice way to kill some time and enjoy the journey. So check it out for yourself. :)