hunt for the wilderpeople (2016)

Cinema as sitcom rarely works and Hunt for the Wilderpeople is no exception. From start to finish the picture is one stock sequence and caricature after another paraded toward the inevitable heartwarming stock conclusion. I can't be the first to point out that Taika Waititi, directing here, seems blissfully at peace with pantomime; most of the moves are jarringly lifted from Wes Anderson. It's a flat-out menu-item sort of film where each scene is a pre-packaged combo meal. The only excitement to be had is in seeing what order Waititi will decide to serve it in. A ritualistic film, we know where it's going, beat by beat, it's inoffensive and pleasant, even adds a dash of faux edge to keep it from being too soft. Hunt for the Wilderpeople reaches levels of high banality that can only be consumed with a degree of complicity on the part of the audience to never remove their rose-colored pleasant-entertainment glasses. It's not all bad, Sam Neil holds much of the film together and the performance from Julian Dennison also holds the film aloft. All in all, Wilderpeople is just a chore to sit through, in contrast to its easy-going narrative.

Wilderpeople checks all the boxes for narrative sympathy from orphans to death of a parent to bonding from a cold adult who doesn't like children to bullying, the list goes on. Things happen that make the caricatures grow together or something and then the film ends in a spectacular something. People chase the kid and make Terminator references and then more people chase the kid and make more references and then the camera does the snap-zoom thing where the characters in the foreground don't notice the character in the background. Tough to truly describe what the film could have done better. It was mostly doomed from the start as a filler type of film. Somewhere along the way, Wilderpeople knocks on the door of themes of being misunderstood by society, outsiders coming together. There's a few funny bits about taking selfies. 

Tough to say much more about it, the film fails to connect on almost every level besides background noise. The gorgeous vistas of New Zealand are rendered as the only interesting element to take one's mind off of the monotonous proceedings. All in all, mildly amusing, not much more to say.