SXSW Film Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Family-friendly comedy is quirky fun

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a funny film to encounter at a festival – a broad, crowd-pleasing PG comedy from the director of an upcoming superhero sequel (Taika Waititi, Thor: Ragnarok), starring the guy from the original Jurassic Park (Sam Neill).

The film’s backers needn’t worry about drumming up buzz on the festival circuit – they have an easy sell on their hands, a throwback family classic in the mold of The Goonies.

Protagonist Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a rotund juvenile delinquent sent to live with a new foster family on a farm in his native New Zealand. Just when he makes a stable connection to his foster mother, she dies and leaves him alone with her taciturn husband, played by Neill. Through a series of hijinks and misunderstandings, the unlikely duo ends up on the lam together, living free in the remote bush as bounty hunters and government agents try to drag them back to civilization. The boy-scout-fantasy tone falters some when confronting the prospect of real violence at the climax, but the film’s quirky island humor and a winning comedic performance from Dennison smooth out the rough patches. Kids will be watching it on repeat for years.

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