Friday, February 3, 2017

"Hunt for the Wilderpeople" (2016)

One of the most charming films from 2016 was Taika Waititi’s “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.” (It and 2015’s tremendous “What We Do In the Shadows” make me excited to see this year’s Thor film.)

It follows the story of foster-kid, Ricky—who the system has written off—trying to avoid being put back in that system when his latest foster-mother dies. He and the late-woman’s husband spend most of the movie out in the New Zealand bush while the entire nation is fascinated by their story and looking for them.

What a film with such a relatively simple plot needs is on full display here. Great characters, interesting story-telling, emotional investment, and wonderfully visual comedy. Sam Neill and Julian Dennison carry the film with wonderful performances.

However, what pushes this film past delightful to important and will land it on my list of top-films of 2016 is the meaning behind the adventure and comedy. Ricky is the victim of a system and a society who prejudge him and never give him a chance. This leads him into a series of homes where he is expected to live a certain way without ever having the benefit of someone who will accept him unconditionally and then work to help him grow as a person. This makes Bella’s death early on in the film even more tragic. However, it is her brief love and acceptance that inspire Ricky to see himself as more than just a throw-away kid.

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