Taika Waititi – a core member of the New Zealand hipster comedy group responsible for ‘Flight of the Conchords’ – rambles into sort-of-family-movie territory in this massively endearing road movie on foot. There’s a strong whiff of ‘Up’ in its story about a chubby boy and an old man setting off on a jungle adventure. And indeed this might be the best kids’ movie since Pixar’s masterpiece (with a spot of bad language and several jokes about perverts thrown in).
Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a 12-year-old tearaway from the big city who isn’t happy about being sent to live in the sticks with foster parents Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill). Of course it’s not long before, in time-honoured kids’-book fashion, Ricky settles into the country life with his dog, Tupac. But when tragedy strikes, Ricky and Hec are forced to go on the run.
‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ isn’t quite perfect: ‘Conchords’ veteran Rhys Darby makes an irritating late cameo. But overall this is an absolute pleasure. There are times when Waititi’s script borders on genius. One gag about the word ‘caucasian’ is priceless, while Ricky’s habit of writing haikus to express his feelings is both hilarious and, by the end, genuinely moving. Hunt it down