HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE is the new film from half of the team who brought us WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, Taika Waititi. It stars Sam Neill of JURASSIC PARK fame, Rhys Darby (FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS), and relative newbie Julian Dennison as the film’s young, overweight star, Ricky Baker. Ricky is a troubled young man who is adopted by an older couple named Bella and Hec (Neill), who live on a farm outside of the beautiful New Zealand bush. Ricky has a difficult time acclimating himself to the country living of his new foster aunt and uncle, but quickly realizes that things aren’t all that bad. And even if he wanted to leave, there’s no way a chubby kid like him could survive in the surrounding forest. However, that’s exactly what he’s forced to do when depressing circumstances put him in danger of being brought back into the city as an orphan. He and Uncle Hec find themselves hiding out in the wilderness avoiding the police, hunters attempting to claim the bounty on their heads, and the dangers of the bush.

Unfortunately, I don’t think my synopsis of the film gave any credit to how hysterical it was. This was one of the funniest movies I’ve seen all year, though I have yet to see the new GHOSTBUSTERS movie – sarcasm. Ricky and Hec displayed amazing chemistry together that kept me rolling in laughter for the entire length of the film. Ricky is a gangster wannabe with a lot of attitude but an equal amount of heart and Hec is a grumpy old man filled with grief and regret, who also happens to be a great role model. Together, they make the perfect duo of recklessness and apathy. It’s funny when they don’t get along and it’s funny when they do. They’re simply great characters. In fact, all of the characters are well developed and funny in their own unique way. Each time a new character was introduced, I thought to myself “Oh, great. Here’s another character that I won’t be able to stand in 5 minutes.” And each time I was proven wrong. Even the villains are likable and completely sympathetic. I haven’t read the screenplay or the source material, but it is very apparent that all of the characters were written with a lot of love. No one was neglected and it shows. On top of that the situations were original, the dialogue was superb, and everything was made even funnier by their gorgeous New Zealand accents.

I had so much fun watching this movie. It was incredibly original from being separated by chapters, the way it used music and montage, and its overall structure. It keeps you on the edge of your seat by continually surprising you and making you smile. It may not be the movie you remember to include in your top 10 list at the end of the year, but it is certainly worth the price of admission this weekend. See it on the big screen with a couple of friends who like to laugh. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

3½ out of 5 stars

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (PG-13) – Dir. Taika Waititi

Starring: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, and Rhys Darby

Runtime: 1h 41min