Taika Waititi may have gotten the big job and joined the ranks of blockbuster directors with Thor Ragnarok, but in the mean time he hasn’t forgotten his roots with his latest film. A rebellious young boy (Julian Dennison) and his foster uncle (Sam Neill) though don’t call him that, become the centre of a national manhunt when they go missing in the New Zealand wilderness.
Dennison, the relatively unknown young actor, is appearing in his third feature and is without doubt the best thing to come out of this film, his performance is hilarious, his timing is dead on target and he’s the perfect good hearted kid who simply had a bad start until someone took a chance on him. Backing him up, Neill gives the brilliant back and forth between the two of them, gradually growing to care for the boy he desperately tried to dislike and seeing Neill as the haggard, angry old man strangely feels like quite a complimentary role for him; a character with more to offer than the stereotypical nice guy. Rachel House as Paula pushes the comedy even further with her no-nonsense, social services worker, the character is so much fun to watch, she’s dedicated but in the wrong ways and quite frankly insane, it’s her craziness pushing the story to heights that could have been easily avoided but are a joy to watch. Waititi himself even has a cameo that is also one of the funniest parts of the film, which perfectly speaks to his ability to create humble, small comedies that you can’t help but love.
Of course credit where credit is due, it is based on the 1986 book by Barry Crump named Wild Pork and Watercress (one guess as to why the name was changed), sadly the author passed away over 20 years ago but it’s impressive that despite the 30 year difference, the film translates perfectly to modern day. That translation is heavily achieved by the simple and honest values that the film is offering, most notably, family. The film also takes part almost entirely out in the (shocker) wilderness of the New Zealand bush and it’s simply a pleasure to watch, no masses of boring concrete just good old fashioned nature which again takes things back to basics. The humour of the film is marvellous, it’s a little silly at times but it never lets up and keeps you laughing throughout it all, with the only exception being when it’s heart-warming. Then you add in the factor that it’s actually rather different, it has some danger and action to keep things even more interesting, if you think you know where this film is going to end up, you’re unlikely to be right.
This is exactly what you want to see from this director, back to his roots and making something indie and fun, that any age can enjoy. It’s strange that looking at his previous films that are clearly completely different from each other, that you can still see his particular style in all of them, it’s extremely consistent. It’s a brilliant film and for anyone who missed it in the cinema, you should definitely try and see it when you get a chance; one of the few films that received a fair amount of hype but did not disappoint in the least.