Okay, it's PG-13. But I don't remember much of anything being all that offensive. Part of it can be blamed on the New Zealand accent. Even the worst words sound fairly tame when uttered by a New Zealander. Secondly, this is '80s PG. This is everything that would have been included in The Goonies. Honestly, I think the PG-13 is stopping this movie from becoming a film that my kids would watch. There's a little blood involving a CG boar, but it's a pretty innocent movie. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Taika Waititi
I really tried selling some friends on What We Do in the Shadows this weekend. It didn't work nearly as well as I hoped it would. I'm surprised that everyone just doesn't lose their minds over that movie. It's so good. It might be my favorite Taika Waititi movie. But everyone always recommends Hunt for the Wilderpeople. They say that it was going to blow my mind and be one of my favorite movies of all time. It's a very good movie. I'll go as far as to say it is an excellent movie. But Taika Waititi has gotten on my radar for being amongst the best contemporary directors. My expectations were out of the park and what I got was simply a fantastic movie that was my least favorite of the three movies I've seen from him.
I complained a lot about Julian Dennison when I saw Deadpool 2. My love for New Zealand accents seemed to be pushed too far when watching that movie and I thought that it should take more than a New Zealand accent to tell a joke. I might have been wrong about that kid. It is really odd. The reason that Julian Dennison is in Deadpool 2 is because of his role as Ricky in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. He's playing the exact same character, only the one in Deadpool 2 has superpowers. But the character works so well here. The biggest takeaway that I get from Hunt for the Wilderpeople is that it is Waititi's most vulnerable movie. (Again, this is of three that I've seen.) (Never mind. I also saw Eagle vs. Shark and I didn't love that.) It definitely has his sense of humor, but he's tempering it a bit. Waititi, first and foremost, is making the story of a unique family. Because this family is already in a little bit of an odd situation, the comedy can flow pretty naturally from there. But, at its core, it is a story about family. Waititi has a really odd job in this movie. The movie has a lot of content to get through in a very short amount of time to get to the main plot. Only once Ricky and Heck are on the run did I get what the movie was going to be about. (I avoided trailers and I guess I never figured out the title until Ricky said, "We're the Wilderpeople" or something like that. I never claimed to be a genius.) But the movie has to get through a lot of emotional baggage really quickly and it works somehow. Like, it makes no sense to me. Maybe it is the use of the chapter structure, but I had no problem making major jumps in emotional vulnerability to get to the main plot. Honestly, Bella and Ricky's relationship is one of my favorite theatrical relationships. This is where Waititi does something that I normally don't care for. Bella is a bit of an intense character. She has these odd quirks that read like a character out of a movie. When Bella is introducing Ricky to his room, she points out all of the weird things that she has put in this room. It's very funny, but usually that pulls me out of the movie. For some reason, I didn't care. It was this funny and touching moment. Waititi, in this scene, associates something as silly as a hot water bottle with the idea of being cared for. Yeah, it is very goofy, but the hot water bottle becomes something remarkably touching throughout the movie. I never thought a hot water bottle would be a metaphor for mourning, but this object keeps on appearing at the right times to connect the adventure to the emotional importance of the film.
I had a mildly long discussion about Sam Neill on my podcast. We can't read him. Is he a guy who wants to be an actor or is he a farmer who uses his acting roles to pay for his sheep farm? Regardless, it is amazing to see him play a role that is just an illiterate version of the person he wants to be. I really like Sam Neill. Like, I'm not convinced he is the most powerful actor on the planet, but there's this unexplainable joy that I get when I see him in a movie. Perhaps I'm doing the thing that he probably hates and I'm associating him with Jurassic Park, but I'm glad to see him do this movie. I had no idea that he lived in New Zealand now. I didn't actually know his father was from New Zealand. I thought he was British (not Irish) and that he was doing an accent. Nope. He's living in New Zealand today as a sheep farmer and that's the role he has in this movie. I suppose that much of the success of this movie relies on Sam Neill's Heck. I would say that Ricky is the main character, but Ricky makes the major change in the film in the first fifteen minutes of the movie. Heck is the character who is constantly making growth. I found it a little odd to make Heck illiterate. It doesn't really pay off in the traditional sense. I mean LIGHT SPOILER, he starts learning to read by the end. But I didn't really tie that element of his character to the overall narrative. Perhaps it is something to make him fallible to Ricky. After all, Heck has way too much knowledge about the bush, so giving him a trait that makes him somehow inferior is probably important narratively. But there was no real moment in the story where Heck and Ricky's survival depended on Heck being able to read. But Heck's narrative, and his true fault, lies in his inability to open up with Ricky, whom he views as a bother. Oh man, I just realized that this is A Christmas Carol on the run from the Australian law and social services. But Heck also offers something interesting in his portrayal of Heck. It's not something I'm going to write home about, but I do find Heck's grief interesting. Heck is a character is (WAIT, his name is spelled "Hec"? From here on out, I'm going to be spelling it the right way.) Going on! Hec is a character who kind of deserves to be selfish. He's fundamentally a lone wolf. He values his privacy and it seems like Bella interrupted that solitude for the better. From moment one, you get the vibe that Ricky's presence there is entirely due to Bella's desires. He desperately wants Bella back, but the alternative to Bella's companionship is a return to solitude. Instead, he has Ricky, with whom he has not bonded. He is a different individual from Bella or anyone that he would freely associate with and he just wants to be alone. Having to hang out with this little turd seems to be the worst, especially due to his incompetence. But there's this slow moving arc where Ricky becomes gradually better at survival and Hec feels like what it means to be a father. That's pretty exciting growth.
The side characters bring some interesting elements into the story and I'm not sure if those are all good or all bad. I'm referring to Paula and the hunters. Psycho Sam, played by Rhys Darby, is perfect because he's Rhys Darby. But Paula is such a good punchline that I don't know if she fits the needs of the movie by being such an intense character. I get it. That's the joke. I should be able to live with it and it is a great joke. But it also is at odds with the intensity of the movie. I think that Waititi gets that. There's this moment of just self-awareness at the end. Paula completes her objective and has this moment of awareness at the end. Paula completes her objective and just looks forlorn. She is empty without this quest. It's a really interesting character arc, but I wonder if that same emotion is true for most people. I guess there's something there. Again, I have to understand that some things are done for comedic effect. The root emotion that Paula is experiencing probably is grounded, but the presentation, being so over-the-top, can be distancing at times. A better writer than I would completely delete this paragraph, realizing that he had critical-thinkinged his way out of this conundrum. But I've been really distracted writing these posts. Often, I'm sleep deprived and distracted by other things I want to do. But my analysis into Paula isn't completely meritless. There is something to improve there, but I don't know if it can be done easily. Paula is far too complex piece of the narrative puzzle to simply hit backspace on. She has this core that really is thematically appropriate. To simply tweak her might improve her character, but it may cause damage on the rest of the film. The hunters, however, seem like a bit of lazy casting. Maybe Waititi really wanted me to love the recurring joke of the hunters constantly getting their comeuppens, but I didn't really get that. It just seemed bananas that they were everywhere the protagonists were. But this is nitpicky. I mean, this is nitpicky even for me. The characters are fine. If I was to make the movie, I would have had that Ace in the Hole feeling where everyone just came across as an opportunist. But that's me and that's not what this movie was.
I really liked this movie. I thought it was absolutely beautiful and vulnerable. I mean, I'm head-over-heels with What We Did in the Shadows and Thor: Ragnarok might be the easiest MCU movie to give a repeat viewing to. So it gets third place. Oh no. It's a great film and I'll probably rewatch it in the next year or two. But for now, the movie served more than its purpose.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.