Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Oscar Kightley, Stan Walker, Mike Minogue, Cohen Holloway, Rhys Darby, Troy Kingi, Taika Waititi, Hamish Parkinson
Written by: Taika Waititi, Tearepa Kahi, based on a book by Barry Crump
Directed by: Taika Waititi
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements including violent content, and for some language
Running Time: 101
Date: 06/24/2016

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Hec and High Water

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

New Zealand-born actor filmmaker Taika Waititi is a talent to watch; he has the ability to mesh a wonderfully dry sense of humor with a little bit of heart. He received an Oscar nomination for Best Live Action Short in 2005, his coming of age movie Boy (2010) was one of the best of its type I'd seen in some time, his vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows (2014) was delightfully screwy, and now Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) is lovely, funny, and fresh. It plays a little like a cartoon, with its oddball characters traipsing around in the beautiful, unpredictable New Zealand bush, but it never lets go of genuine human feelings.

Troubled foster child Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), tubby and dressed in glittery, showy "bling," is taken in by kindly farmer Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her grumpy husband Hec (Sam Neill). A tragedy ensues, and when child services threatens to take the boy back, Hec and Ricky take to the bush, hilariously bickering and hiding there for months while living off the land. Waititi's rhythms are extremely pleasing, with the singsong dialogue popping pleasantly along with the outdoor backdrops. It became the highest-grossing film in New Zealand history. Waititi himself appears as a weirdly clueless minister, and will be in the spotlight this November when his Avengers film Thor: Ragnarok opens in theaters.

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