Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople ★★★½

A crop of directors have appeared over the last couple of years whose work seems indebted to the oeuvre's of Wes Anderson and Edgar Wright. That is to say, their films are often dryly quirky pastiches of cinema history that favor visual inventiveness over internal cohesion. The Daniels' Swiss Army Man, James Gunn's Guardians films, and Jordan Vogt-Roberts' The Kings of Summer would fall within this grouping. Taika Waititi's Hunt for the Wilderpeople, for better or worse, also applies.

The result is a film that is entirely winning, hypnotically captivating in its unexpected turns, and, yet, also dissatisfying as a treatise on forging ahead through the grief and hardship the world (really, it's all The Bush) throws at you. Julian Dennison's portrayal of Ricky eschews the grating quirks of outsider movie teens with an endearing innocence, wit, and genuine sense of growth. Waititi shoots the film through Ricky's eyes, which allows for an array of cinematic visuals and montages (the 360° shots are especially fun). Ricky and Hec (and Bella and Kahu and. . .) are all signified as outsiders, loners, people who have been characterized through other's language as being troublemakers or rebels. Waititi's ostentatious stylization then parallels Ricky and Hec defining themselves through their own language ("skuxx," "majestical").

Unfortunately, there is, at times, too much of Waititi's own voice (literally, in the tonally off scene he appears in). In short, the absurdist humor tempers too many scenes meant to be sorrowful, primarily the conclusion that is both geographically jumbled and tonally unsatisfactory. Regardless, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a comfortable watch (like a soothing hot water bottle in your bed), with plenty of chuckles, and a game cast.

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