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An oddball treat

OUT NOW! Taiki Waititi's gloriously offbeat HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE finally receives a limited German cinema release and is offbeat in all the best ways.

Based on Barry Crump’s novel Wild Pork And Watercress, Taika Waititi’s new film finally reaches German shores. It follows youngster Ricky (a brilliant debut by Julian Dennison), “a really bad egg” sent by social services to live on a remote farm with his foster aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and cantankerous foster uncle Hec (Sam Neill, giving his strongest performance in years). A series of unfortunate events lead Ricky to end up lost in the New Zealand Bush with Hec, and thanks to a fair few misunderstandings, they embark on an adventure that’ll turn into a national manhunt, complete with dim-witted TV coverage, SWAT teams and Blues Brothers-style chases. Hunt For The Wilderpeople is an odd film, in the best possible way. It comes off as Pixar’s Up meets The Fugitive, with hints of Roald Dahl thrown in for good measure. Impressively, it stands on its own two feet thanks to Waititi’s absurdist comedic sensibilities, dry wit and his deft tonal balancing act. His screenplay is not afraid to delve into some dark places, but whimsy is never sacrificed and crucially, characters and genuine emotion are never dismissed in favour of wearingly arch humour. The cast all shine, with special mention for Rachel House, the inappropriately gung-ho social worker who repeats her “no child left behind” mantra with crazed conviction.

Much like 2014’s What We Do In The Shadows, the director’s deadpan humour might be a turn-off for some, as might the ending, which falls short of the rest of the film. However, it’s hard not to embrace Hunt For The Wilderpeople for what it is: Waititi’s most consistently funny work to date and what may turn out to be the year’s most preposterously charming offering.

The Hunt For Wilderpeople | Directed by Taika Waititi (New Zealand, 2016) with Sam Neil, Julian Dennison, Rachel House. Starts March 16.

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