There is something very pleasing about finding comedy from another country amusing. Let’s be honest, us Brits get sniffy about other nations’ humour, basically because we invented being funny and it is a highly competitive national sport (no pressure on The Sloth in this blog post…did we tell you the one about the Aardvark, the Bush Baby and the Slow Loris??). Personally, The Sloth has always appreciated the blacker than black humour of the Scandis and the dry, eyebrow raising wit of the Germans, whilst feeling our Gallic chums across La Manche may be better sticking to the existential philosophising. Now, in Hunt For The Wilderpeople, it’s the turn of our Kiwi cousins to bring the funny.
Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a problem kid. Having been turfed out of innumerable foster homes for fighting, swearing, setting fire to things and general wanton destruction, as a last resort social services foist him on the mercy of Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill), an elderly couple living out in the countryside. Bella, a one-woman oasis of unflappable calm, is more than a match for Ricky, soon taming his erratic outbursts and giving him the love he desperately craves. So that’s it then? They all live happily ever after? Err, no, because following an incident which The Sloth shall not disclose, Ricky does what every good problem kid should – runs away.
Now this is New Zealand, not Berkshire, so there is plenty of scope for running away, should you so choose. To wit Hec realises he has no option but to go in search of Ricky before he gets eaten by a rogue Hobbit. Reluctantly bonding in the depths of the woods, Hec and Ricky discover they are targets of a nationwide manhunt, with Social Services keen to take the errant Ricky back into their clutches. So our dynamic duo turn fugitive in a desperate bid for escape.
Hunt For The Wilderpeople flies along on the chemistry between the two leads, Ricky’s pent up teen energy bouncing effortlessly off Hec’s misanthropic grumpiness. Throw in several fabulous minor characters, most notably borderline psychotic social worker Paula and a dog called Tupac, and you have a quirky indie delight that effortlessly holds its own against other quirky, Little-Miss-Sunshines-a-likes of recent years. Most importantly, several out-loud belly laughs later, The Sloth is chuffed to report it wholeheartedly passed the funny test. Good job, NZ.