Hunt For the Wilderpeople Steve-Newall'S REVIEW

On paper, the idea of releasing a film in 2016 about a smartarse kid and his taciturn caregiver on the lam in the New Zealand bush seems foolhardy. Let alone one based on a Barry Crump novel, the author seeming representative of an even more bygone age than when he was still a cultural fixture. After watching a quarter hour or so of dry, low key, Taika Waititi humour - charmingly funny as it may be - amid Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s rural setting, you may be wondering if the pic has more going for it. In four words: it bloody well does.

After establishing the film’s characters and their unhurried pace of life, Waititi begins to lean on the accelerator. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself and the rest of the audience being swept up in an unlikely underdog adventure that continues to layer on emotional resonance even as it dials up the hysterics. Yes, this is as funny as you’d expect, and perhaps even more so, with gags all over the scale from conversational quips to outright absurdity.

At Wilderpeople’s core is the ever-strengthening odd couple relationship between Julian Dennison and Sam Neill, born of circumstance, fueled by frustration, yet building a believable bond that the film crucially entices one to invest in. Individually, they’re as strong as they are together, especially when interacting with the supporting oddbods who drift in and out of their orbit, but Waititi still coaxes something special from their pairing.

Yes, the film successfully channels the anarchic anti-establishment New Zealand onscreen outlook of decades past, and references it too, but don’t worry about missing a gag here, location there, even a prominent prop. That won’t detract from a hilarious, heartwarming tale that harnesses script, direction and performances and takes plenty of creative risks on its way to delivering movie magic.