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


Preston Barta // Features Editor

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

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction ( as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.