Set on the east coast of New Zealand in 1984, Boy, an 11-year-old child and devout Michael Jackson fan, gets a chance to know his absentee criminal father, who has returned to find a bag of money he buried years ago.
In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.
This movie is really good - I have to say I enjoyed it and would probably see it again.
A far more developed example of what Waititi can do as a director and storyteller; the film has examples of pathos, comedy, action, drama, art film, satire, good cinematography and even a few decent VFX shots. His last film, vampire mockumentary "What We Do in the Shadows" was a narrative disappointment, despite NZ media committing to expose the film and help generate sales. Something of a misguided indulgence, "Shadows" made the mistake of letting three or four (very) minor indie celebs improvise in digital for many, many hours, then the director tried to create a concrete whole in editing and post. Didn't work. Great intro though.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople focuses on the life of Ricky Baker - a young, overweight, orphaned juvenile offender that idealizes hip hop and creates haiku poetry as a method of externalizing emotional conflict, due to the influence of counseling and therapy sessions. Stuck in New Zealand's sub-par youth welfare system (known for endless governmental restructuring with little or no substantive improvement), Ricky ends up on a rotting farm somewhere in the rural back blocks with foster parents.
The film clearly shows elements of the barren, social realist film of early 80s NZ, but with bigger, better cinematography, and Waititi's indie sense of the quirky and offbeat. "Quirky" can become a meaningless attribution in today's market of indie features where anybody and everybody can have a go at being "quirky" to make up for budget and spectacle, but this film also has real nuance and character development, and a quality cast that seem to get the idea of being a bit "quirky" and "meta" without forgetting that emotional investment is what an audience really needs to feel involved with the story. Rachel House is hilarious. So's the director in an excellent cameo.
Some of the early scenes don't read as naturally as they could, and also Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne's mother in the film is referred to but is never actually seen for unknown reasons. In addition, New Zealander's might complain about the films location improbabilities, but that's been standard practice in US features for years. Cool movie!! Go see it!!
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