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‘Hunt For The Wilderpeople’ (dvd review)

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Sony / Released 9/27/16

Raised on hip-hop and foster care, defiant city kid Ricky (Julian Dennison) gets a fresh new start in the New Zealand countryside. He quickly finds himself at home with his new foster family: the Loving Aunt Bella, the cantankerous Uncle Hec (Sam Neill) and dog Tupac. When a tragedy strikes that threatens to ship Ricky to another home, both he and Hec go on the run in the bush. As a national manhunt ensues, the newly branded outlaws must face their options: go out in a blaze of glory or overcome their differences and survive as a family.  Extras include commentary, featurette and blooper reel.

Last Word: A departure from the comedy of his work on Flight of the Conchords and What We Do in the Shadows, the sophomore feature from writer/director Taika Waititi crosses The Fugitive with the New Zealand bush.

Camping across over five months, Uncle Hec (Sam Neill) and young Ricky (Julian Dennison) are on the run to escape the clutches of Juvenile hall.

The wry humor of Waititi’s previous work shines through, this is a very funny movie and the touching story of bad kid Ricky being accepted into a farming family to turn himself around without losing identity.

Rima Te Wiata stars as Ricky’s adoptive aunt, Bella, that can both heat a water bottle for Ricky’s bedtime cuddling and joyfully slaughter a wild pig for dinner without caring much about the gangsta rap 10 year old’s reaction.

This is a movie about outsiders and acceptance.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is also about loss and acceptance. Ricky was born to a teenage mother who left him for adoption. It is only after getting in so much trouble have the New Zealand authorities left him to his most recent foster parents Hec and Bella.

It’s rough going at first as Sam Neill’s Hec and Ricky agree to leave each other alone. Bella deals with Ricky’s haikus and gangsta rap and Ricky’s penchant for escaping in the night (only to return in the morning for breakfast).

When left to fend for themselves, eventually Ricky gets lost in the bush only to be trained on how to hunt with his reluctant Uncle Hec.

The film is warm and funny, with the absurdity of Fargo, Raising Arizona and other Coen Brothers masterpieces. The chase from the authorities deep into the bush pits the pair against dome dumb criminals, medical emergencies and fierce beasts.

Five months is a long time for the team to be on the lam, so Ricky becomes Internet famous from the attention, with the media portraying Hec as some sort of “PERVERT!” molesting the boy. (Not true, just dis-information).

Cameos from the director and Rhys Darby fill out some of the funniest parts of dialogue in the film, Rhys playing a true Bush-Man (he dresses and scurries like a bush) named Psycho Sam! A self-named moniker, as he has been isolated in the bush for over 15 years. Waititi plays the small town minister, struggling too associate death with snacks and confections in a touching sermon.

The reluctant adoptive father and son relationship is so fun to watch develop as each of the characters grows on each other.

Fans of The Goonies might also enjoy this comedy adventure story with heart.

Taika Waititi is a rising star with two great features under his belt and is poised to become very much in demand with the upcoming Marvel Studios threequel, Thor: Ragnarok, and the What We Do in the Shadows sequel, the cleverly titled We’re Wolves.

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