Hunt for the Wilderpeople ★★★★

A downright hilarious, endlessly entertaining & delightfully heartwarming adventure comedy that's affectionately crafted, exquisitely witted & brilliantly performed from start to finish, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a rollicking ride that's jam-packed with idiosyncratic characters & distinct Kiwi humour while keeping a healthy dose of heartfelt warmth beneath its surface at all times to finish as arguably the funniest film of 2016.

The story of Hunt for the Wilderpeople follows a rebellious kid who is brought to a remote farm by child welfare services to live with a new family where he is able to find comfort in the company of his foster aunt while her husband remains distant. But when an unexpected tragedy strikes, he flees into the New Zealand bush, is soon joined by his foster uncle, and while they traverse through the wilderness, a national manhunt ensues for the two of them.

Written & directed by Taika Waititi, Hunt for the Wilderpeople marks my first stint with his films and to say that I was amazed would be an understatement, for it turned out to be much better than anticipated and held my attention throughout its runtime. The plot begins on a calm note but its wit makes its presence felt relatively quick, thanks to its zany dialogues & smart introduction of protagonists, made all the more interesting by its splendid cast.

Its calm, alluring & natural wilderness setting allows the audience to focus on the words exchanged between the two characters who never got along earlier but do get used to each other's company and then some more as the plot progresses. Their budding relationship, their wicked encounters with other people & the void within the two protagonists is elegantly portrayed and never for once feels forced while Waititi makes sure that the story never loses its funny side.

As far as performances go, both Sam Neill & Julian Dennison hit it out of the park with impressive individual inputs, and their chemistry with each other is even better. Although Dennison never really steps on the wrong foot and keeps his act as per the requirements of the scene, Neill steals many moments by simply timing his mere expressions of surprise or frustration to perfection. It is a truly outstanding effort from these two and they are wonderfully supported by the rest of the cast.

On an overall scale, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is one of the most pleasant delights to surface from the New Zealand film industry and its superbly executed textbook-style narration gives each one of its chapters a little identity of its own while stitching together its transpiring set of events to form a consistently engaging whole simultaneously. Gleefully directed, deftly scripted, richly photographed, briskly paced, sensibly edited, aptly scored & fabulously acted, this wholehearted, poignant & genuinely rib-tickling tale comes highly recommended.

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