The film stars Sam Neill (The Piano and Jurassic Park), Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Oscar Kightley (Sione's Wedding and bro'Town), Rhys Darby (The Boat That Rocked and What We Do in the Shadows), Stan Walker and Julian Dennison. The cast gave fantastic performances, with Neill giving the most unusual performance of his respected repertoire. And kudos to newcomer Dennison, who like James Rolleston in Boy, a film like this would have little chance, without the right casting, and Dennison is so right as Ricky, it's difficult to imagine anyone else. However, Dennison's winning presence doubtless has much to do with the fact that the film is a record-breaking hit in its home country, but there's some salt mixed in with the film's sugar. It's hard to praise too highly the tone of this film. The film is also littered with nice cameos here and there, beginning with Kightley giving a hilarious performance as the bumbling cop; Darby giving another outrageous performance and Walker giving a nice comedic cameo.
Even the inevitable flaws of the low-budget production are winning, showcasing as they do the narrative artistry that makes Hunt for the Wilderpeople so distinctive amid current factory-written studio productions. A simple story of adventure and the bittersweet relationship between parent and child that succeeds thanks to the impressive skills of Neill and Dennison. The film finds hope, and love, in the oddest corners. Waititi has reached into his past for a story that belongs to him alone. The film is a charmer, a funny and affecting parent-child rendered with heart, and with nuttiness. This is an upbeat, often hilarious, but never mawkish, celebration of love. It's one of those flicks that has more resonance than you may at first realize and a level of charm that few films contain. A performer and comedian before becoming a filmmaker, Waititi uses his comic sensibilities to keep the film from becoming mawkish or clichéd. He has created a coming-of-age tale that is truly original. Waititi does a nice tonal juggling act, balancing eccentric characters, a modern setting and natural scenery with the bittersweet consequences of a parent-child relationship. However, as likeable as the film was, I just didn't find it as funny as I thought I would. Overall, the film has its own distinctive style, partly thanks to whimsical little interludes of character interactions, but mainly because it ties blithe absurdity to a rock bed of emotional truth.
Simon says Hunt for the Wilderpeople receives: