Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Reviewed by Vaughan Ames

196 people turned up to see 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople' on Sunday so I wasn't the only one who had been looking forward to seeing this little gem since its release last year! New Zealand has come a long way in the movie world but is still a tiny player - most films made there hardly make it to Australia, never mind the rest of the world - but 'the wilderpeople' has been a hit even in America. Made on a tiny budget ($NZ4.5m), why has this one made it? Why did Empire Magazine make it their number one film of 2016?

Well, I will say up front it wasn't the best made film I've ever seen...but I loved it! And so did most of the audience in Keswick – 105 people gave it a five star marking!

The key, I think, was threefold – the story, the acting and the scenery. The story is divided into 10 chapters. In Chapter One we meet Ricki, a rebellious young orphan who has the choice of living with Hec and Bella in the middle of nowhere or going to juvenile prison; Bella really want him, Hec doesn't. Ricki takes one look round the house and gets back in the car again! But, you guessed it; he stays and starts to like it until Bella dies and social services want him back. Ricki runs off into the bush.

Here I have to mention the scenery: the bush in New Zealand is both fantastic to look at AND dangerous. It is very easy to get lost, very hard to get through - a fantastic backdrop to an adventure movie, then.

Hec follows Ricki and rescues him, but breaks his ankle so they have to camp while it heals. By the time they are ready to return, the whole of New Zealand is out looking for them, believing Hec has abducted Ricki. From then on, the adventure takes over, the comedy comes thick and fast and the chemistry between the two characters sucks you in more and more.

Hec is played by the always good Sam Neill, Ricki by a new discovery – Julian Dennison – who may not be the best actor in the world, but certainly held his end up in the repartee with Sam Neill. The rest of the cast is filled by other Kiwis who are 'world famous in New Zealand' – the outstanding one, I guess has to be Rhys Darby (Murray from 'Flight of the Conchords') who plays the hilarious 'Psycho Sam', a conspiracy theory believer living in the bush to escape the world.

So a definite 'feel-good' movie, then; deliberately melodramatic, full of basic humour, somehow it managed to turn even the most obvious situation into something better. A classic movie it aint; a good night out it most definitely was!