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Wilding Out at Tribeca

Team Experience is at the Tribeca Film Festival. Here's Jason on "Hunt For the Wilderpeople".

About a year ago director Taika Waititi showed us the homier side of Nosferatu & Co with the vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows... and the very next thing I knew he was being hired to direct the third Thor movie for Marvel. I always felt like a step was missing in there, and sure enough here's Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the adorable little rainbow bridge he took on over to the big leagues.

An adaptation of the well-loved 1986 novel Wild Pork and Watercress by New Zealand's favorite author slash adventurer Barry Crump, Wilderpeople feels more like a proper Movie than Shadows did - whereas that was a collection of funny bits hung together by silly string, this time out there's a more novelistic approach, with explicit chapter titles and also things like a beginning, a middle, and an end. An emotional journey, if you will! One that doesn't skimp on the giant pig monsters (which okay let's be honest, those are probably what got him Thor 3).

City slicker, street urchin, and roundly rejected foster kid Ricky (Julian Dennison) shows up to his latest familial assignment with a boar-sized chip on his shoulder, which Aunt Bella (a sweetly no-nonsense Rima Te Wiata) immediately sets about slaughtering. Uncle Hec (don't call him Uncle), played by Sam Neill with a beard it takes you a few minutes to find a face under, doesn't want any part of Ricky's rigamarole, but cue the heart strings as they're eventually forced to work together against the odds and find common ground, the music swells, a hug in front of a sunset in slow-motion.

Hold up though - thankfully the film is aware of those smarmy cinematic precedents (smarmy classics like the Stallone arm-wrestling epic Over the Top come to mind) and without being cutesy about it demolishes the cliches through good old fashioned hard-fought and battle-fatigued excellence. It's funny and true and a fine wilderness adventure to boot, snuffling out all emotional beats at its own pace, when it damn well feels like it, to the tune of its own drummer and the toot of its own horn section. It's like Rushmore in the bush - yes, it's Bushmore. Straight up magestical, people. Grade: B+

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Reader Comments (5)

I enjoyed this a lot, too, although not as much as What We Do In The Shadows, or probably even as much as BOY which it is far more in tune with aesthetically and dramatically. Taika Waititi's Oscar-nominated short is pretty great too. I think it's on YouTube, too.

I'm surprised to hear you weren't quite as into WWDITS. I was in hysterics the entire time.

April 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Glenn - i like his work a lot, too (the short, Boy, everything)

Jason -- so pleased to hear this is good. Though I can't imagine why someone with such a gift for comedy is hired to direct the "darkest" Thor movie... Ragnarok being about doomsday and all.

April 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Glenn - I liked Shadows! It was very funny. It just felt like more of a goof than a proper movie. I haven't seen Boy yet so this was my introduction to TW's formal storytelling abilities.

Nat -- his hiring gives me hope that they won't go the obvious tedious exploding world route - we need to put the funny back into the Apocalypse, dang it

April 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Yes, I have a suspicion that at least part of the reason why Waititi was cast for Thor 3 was because he and Chris get along. Both being of the antipodean persuasion, I hope a lightness comes through that wasn't present in the second film.

April 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Nice review Jason! This was was my favorite film at SXSW... And probably my favorite of Waititi's films thus far. As a kiwi I'm glad it resonates for international audiences, there are a lot of 'kiwiana' references (in this and Crumps's work too, of course) that I was worried might make it less funny to 'outsiders'.

I've never seen his short - must look it up immediately!

April 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDrG

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