Hunt for the Wilderpeople DVD Review

  • Actors: Rhys Darby, Julian Dennison, Sam Neill
  • Director: Taika Waititi
  • Producers: Taika Waititi, Leanne Saunders, Carthew Neal, Matt Noonan
  • Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French
  • Region: Region 1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: September 27, 2016
  • Run Time: 101 minutes

 There is something inherently pleasant about the narrative of Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a film so jovial in nature that it manages to feel fresh despite a slightly derivative style and familiar themes. It is never surprising, but it is also an undeniable crowd pleaser, thanks in part to effective casting. And even if we have seen similar films come from Wes Anderson and his imitators, there is something undeniably enjoyable about the addition of New Zealand accents to the equation.

Director Taika Waititi (Eagle vs. Shark, What We Do in the Shadows) continues his tendency of making movies about quirky characters in unexpected situations, pairing up a hip-hop influenced city kid with an illiterate bushman in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a young boy who has spent his childhood in foster houses, but comes to know a real home for the first time when he is sent to the New Zealand countryside to live with Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her reserved husband, Hec (Sam Neill). Hec is far less enthusiastic about being a foster parent than Bella, setting the tone for his and Ricky’s humorous routine of disdainful witty banter.

Though they begin as an unlikely pair, the film inevitably becomes about the journey Ricky and Hec take together. When the authorities threaten to take Ricky away to a new home, he and Hec escape to the wilderness as outlaws. Determined not to lose the family he has just gained, Ricky must give up the luxuries of city life and learn how to survive in the wild. Of course, all of this is handled very comically, no matter how seriously the characters take their outlaw status. A national manhunt begins as Ricky and Hec start robbing hunters in the woods in order to survive, playing outlaws as if it were a game of make-believe.

Based on the book by Barry Crump, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is probably the most narratively predictable film that Waititi has made, while retaining the filmmaker’s signature dry sense of humor. The heart of the film relies heavily on the interactions between Hec and Ricky, which never feel over-sentimentalized or insincere as they might have in the hands of another director. Even if the quirkiness in some of the supporting characters occasionally goes over the top, the film is grounded by the realism of this unlikely central relationship.

The DVD release includes a commentary track with Waititi, Neill, and Dennison. There is also a brief behind-the-scenes featurette and a blooper reel.  

Entertainment Value: 8.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10
Historical Significance:  6/10
Special Features: 7/10

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