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Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a kid who has been in one foster home after another and lands at the home of Bella and Hec (Sam Neill), an older couple who live on the edge of the bush. Ricky starts to get settled in when Bella suddenly dies. Ricky doesn’t want to go to another foster home, and he and Hec (who don’t really get along very well) find themselves the object of a manhunt as they escape into the bush. The story is about the relationship that evolves between the two. I loved the movie for several reasons. There is great chemistry between Dennison and Neill, which is probably the reason why it works so well; Dennison is superb as the overweight, teenager who seems to love hip hop music and has seen way too many movies. There are wacky characters who appear during their journey and who had me in stitches, including the world’s most dedicated social worker. The music is really wonderful as well. Big thumbs up from me for a really funny, suspenseful, and heartwarming movie; I am not sure it would be for everyone, as it is pretty odd – the quirkiness reminded me frequently of Moonrise Kingdom. The accents are rather strong, and it took me a while to get accustomed to them. But the film proves that the director, whose previous movie, What We Do in the Shadows, a reality show/mockumentary about vampire roommates, can bring very unusual stories to the screen with a unique sense of humor and great style. (2016; 4.5 stars)

About Gary Burkholder

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