“A national manhunt is organized when a kid and his foster uncle go missing in the New Zealand bush.” Not quite the tagline you would think for the new Taika Waititi comedy showcasing down at SXSW this year. A comedy it is however, and a damn good one.
Taika Waititi’s comedy stock has been rising quite a bit as of late in the United States. His recent work, What We Do In The Shadows has certifiably reached cult status within the film community while garnering him boat loads of new fans within the comedy scene who didn’t already know who he was. This has also re-opened his previous catalog to a bunch of fresh eyes. His directorial work includes 2007’s Eagle vs Shark, HBO’s Flight of the Conchords, and The Inbetweeners series. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his 2004 short film Two Cars, One Night. The director, writer, painter, comedian, and actor is also at the helm of upcoming Marvel feature Thor: Ragnarok.
Waititi is showcasing his latest feature, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, down at SXSW this year. The film is based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump and stars Sam Neill and Julian Dennison as an unlikely team that embarks on an adventure of both self discovery and survival. Hip-hop loving orphan Ricky Baker (Dennison) is delivered by social services to his latest pair of caretakers, including recluse “Uncle Hec” (Neill). When tragedy strikes, the two take off into the forest before Ricky can be taken away. The result is a comedic journey of opposites finding common ground in the most uncommon of places.
You can’t help but fall in love with Dennison in his role as Ricky Baker. From the second he arrives on screen, he delivers several laughs without even saying a word. Neill is the perfect complimentary piece as an old curmudgeon set in his ways battling his own demons and imperfections. Along the journey the two come across a very unique helping hand played by comedian Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords, What We Do in the Shadows, Hot in Cleveland). His character, Psycho Sam, has been living off the grid eating cookies that quite easily could have been baked two decades earlier. In addition to directing and writing the film, Waititi also joins the cast as a memorable preacher in the local town’s church.
There is something quite special about the comedy that hails from New Zealand. It is a very unique blend of witty, self deprecating, matter-of-fact, sarcastic, and at times outlandish humor presented in such an undeniable and likable manner. The heart at the core is never lost. Waititi and his cast deliver all of that and more in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. This film pushes him over the top solidifying him as an unstoppable force in film while making his upcoming Marvel feature a much anticipated one.
Enjoy the trailer: