Movie Review: ‘HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE’ – A hilarious manhunt from Hollywood’s next big-ticket filmmaker

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE | 101 min | PG-13
Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Julian DennisonSam NeillRima Te WiataRachel HouseTioreore Ngatai-MelbourneOscar Kightley and Taika Waititi

Born to be wild

Anyone who saw filmmaker’s Taika Waititi’s exemplary vampire mockumentary WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS leapt with joy when it was announced he would be helming next year’s THOR: RAGNAROK.

But before the God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) throws down his hammer for the third time, Waititi directed a small indie charmer for us to eat up, titled HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE.

The film revolves around a lonely and misunderstood boy, Ricky (an excellent Julian Dennison), who has spent much of his life stumbling through foster care after being abandoned by his parents. It’s not until he lands with the grumpy Hector (Sam Neill) and his loving wife, Bella (Rima Te Wiata), that he just might find a home.

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE could be best described as the live-action version of Pixar’s UP. It possesses a cheerful brand of comedy that is as charming as it is inventive, and it’s complemented by great scenes of emotion that ring true throughout its soul-searching adventure.

While this film still contains Waititi’s brand of humor and tone — seen previously in works such as EAGLE VS SHARK and WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS — he also showcases more directing flair and panache in not only a charismatic and personable manner but in work that share similarities to that of film’s greatest auteurs.

His framing, editing and offbeat nature bear tips of the hat to Wes Anderson (THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL); his narrative structure is reminiscent to Quentin Tarantino’s book-like design; and his kinetic energy and swift camera tricks are arguably comparable to those of Edgar Wright (SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD).

Yet, it all blends together into an exciting, comical and poignant must-watch tale.

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE opens tomorrow in limited release.
Dallas: The Magnolia, Angelika Film Center in Plano

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.