Review: HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE, the Most Endearing Buddy Comedy Adventure You’ll See This Year

Meet Ricky (a young, funny-as-hell newcomer, Julian Dennison). He’s a bit of a bad egg, but there’s hope for the little runt. He’s adopted by two farmers who live in the middle of nowhere: Hec (Sam Neill, like you’ve never seen him before; he’s never been better.), and Bella (Rima Te Wiata, one of New Zealand’s hidden treasures).

When child welfare and a cop pull up, they run off a long list of offenses Ricky has committed to make sure these two are aware of his run-ins with the law before fully committing: disobedience, stealing, spitting, running away, throwing rocks, kicking stuff, defacing stuff, burning stuff, loitering, and graffiti. And these are the only offenses they’ve caught him doing. He’s reminded “Nobody else wants you,” so he’s got no choice but to stick around. Luckily, Bella embraces Ricky with open arms. She’s thrilled to have him. Hec? Not so much. 

To Bella, Ricky looks like a delight. He’s short and as round as a plumb. The back of his jacket says “All Eyez on Me" and he dresses like he just walked off the set of a Kanye West music video. Bella and Hec get him a dog, and Ricky names him 2Pac. Nature is a place he probably only believed existed in books. 

This life isn’t for him and he tries to run away, only to be caught 218 yards away by Bella, who was hanging out and enjoying the scenery. 

Hec doesn’t want anything to do with him, and when Ricky tells him, “You're supposed to give me something to do,” Hec responds, “Yeah, leave me alone.” Cool with Ricky. 

However, tragedy strikes and these two clashing characters must come together when they both decide to live out in the forest while being hunted by police and child welfare. 

Every line spoken in this film is a knockout and goddamn hilarious. Taika Waititi is one of the best deadpan comedic writer-directors working today. If you’ve seen What We Do in the Shadows, Boy (where a kid dreams of meeting Michael Jackson), or his directorial debut, Eagle vs Shark, you’ll know what I’m talking about. He uses a lot of American pop culture references to nail those punchlines, and my face hurt from laughing so much. An excellent example: When Ricky is arguing with the child welfare witch, she calls him Sarah Connor, “but before she started doing pull-ups in Terminator 2.” It’s her way of calling him weak, but in one of the funniest ways possible using universally understood pop culture. Brilliant. 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is based on Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump. I haven’t read this book, but I bought it right after seeing this film. I want to relive this adventure in its natural form and come back to Waititi's vision, which is a masterful comedy. 

Waititi is currently trying out Hollywood and directing the third installment in the Thor franchise, Thor: Ragnarok, and I’m both excited and fidgety about it because I don’t want Tinseltown to stain his humor — it’s too perfect. I’m hopeful he brings something new to the assembly line of superhero movies. 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is like a road trip comedy but set in the woods. It has all the wit, and its crafty humor that will keep you laughing and entertained from beginning to end. See this movie as soon as you can.