A foster kid and his adoptive father hide in the New Zealand forest from child services.
Directed by Taika Waititi
Starring Julian Dennison, Sam Neill, and Rachel House
Review by Jon Kissel
Hunt For the Wilderpeople
The family-friendly adventure gets a modern update with Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Waititi’s fourth film and easily his best gives him a larger budget, but large within the context of New Zealand independent cinema. For a mere $7.5 million, Waititi creates a kinder Goonies and a funnier Stand By Me, the equivalent of an 80's Amblin film in a setting outside of American suburbia. By this point in his career, Waititi has honed his golden Simpsons ratio of 90% comedy and 10% pathos and is about to cash a big check from Marvel, all while demonstrating a creative strength behind the camera that makes his film look more expensive than it is. His transition away from New Zealand micro-budgets and into major commercial and critical cinema has yielded mixed results. The fulcrum of Hunt For the Wilderpeople is the height of one phase of his filmmaking career that later phases are measured against, and come up short.
Wes Anderson meets Downfall in Jojo Rabbit, a film that, to its credit, I’m still turning over long after I’ve seen it. Something rankles in Taika Waititi’s self-described anti-hate satire about a young German boy who can’t make himself into the perfect Nazi soldier he aspires to be. The balls required to make a film about a member of the Hitler Youth who has Hitler himself as an imaginary friend are considerable, but they shrivel up when confronted with a tone that can’t decide on stakes or jokes and in turn undercuts both. Armando Ianucci provided Waititi the way forward with his miraculous comedy The Death of Stalin, but Soviet war crimes have a harder time translating to the Third Reich.
With Thor: Ragnarok, the last of three 2017 Marvel films, the dominant superhero studio fully commits to idiosyncratic directors instead of the workmen guns-for-hire they started their extended universe with. No more Alan Taylors or Louis Letteriers churning out empty eye candy. Instead, Marvel has turned the keys over to weirdos like James Gunn and the refined vision of Ryan Coogler, and their films are all the better for it. Taika Waititi, the director of Ragnarok, splits the difference between the two, borrowing the wacky space opera flare from the former and the stealth critique of great powers from the latter. Waititi also happens to be the strongest comedic director Marvel’s worked with, and it’s no surprise that he would make a raucous action flick on par with something like Midnight Run or Hot Fuzz. That Ragnarok can be so much fun while also being about something beyond capes and magic powers marks it as one Marvel’s best outings.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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