After the critical and Oscar winning success of ‘Gods and Monsters’ actor Brendan Fraser made crowd pleaser summer blockbuster ‘The Mummy’ and from then on alternated between highbrow and low brow and for every Mummy sequel he made ‘The Quiet American’ or ‘Crash’ until his career seems to have petered out. Writer , Director actor Taika Waititi has taken a similar path having appeared in films as varied as the film version of comic book Green Lantern to the stand out comedy horror documentary What we do in the shadows and now turns his hand to writing and directing the drama ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’. The common theme being the comic thread that runs throughout all his films – quite whether this will continue in his next, the multi million dollar Marvel film Thor:Ragnorok, remains to be seen.
This is another low budget road movie about Ricky, a tubby juvenile delinquent, at the last chance saloon being fostered by a jolly auntie figure who is hilariously insensitive about his weight and her husband an irascible grouchy farmer and frankly a bit of a neanderthal throwback played by Sam Neill initially almost unrecognisable and looking a like a Trevor Eve/Sting mash up though thankfully never resorts to singing. Thrown together by tragedy it’s inevitable that their initial differences will be reconciled and soften towards each other after a series of hilariously unintentional gaffs by Julian Dennison as Ricky the wrongdoer child that makes them fugitives hiding in the spectacular New Zealand Orc-free forests.
The film was a project that Waititi had on the back burner for years and whereas some projects should be left alone and rightly incinerated this has benefitted from time with the director stripping out many of the darker moments in favour of humour though there are some quite brutal moments in it that may upset animal lovers which do jar slightly with the general tone of the rest of the film. But his pedigree in comedy is always there none more so than in his own cameo as a minister at a funeral with laugh out loud inappropriateness that makes it the films funniest scene. It doesn’t overshadow the central partnership as the child and his unwilling foster father evade the pursuing forces for months and live off the land despite which the portly Dennison never losing any weight. They make an endearingly mismatched couple ably supported by Rachel House as the boys’ social worker with a misguided view of her job believing herself to be part bounty hunter, part cop, part military man on a mission but all idiot. Perhaps the only disappointment is the normally reliable Rhys Darby as a conspiracy theorist in a one dimensional role.
Based on the Barry Crump book, ‘Wild pork and watercress’ the film, like the book, is divided into chapters making the film a little episodic but it shouldn’t take away from a gently amusing film.
Here’s the trailer: