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Hunt for the Wilderpeople DVD Review

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) movie poster Hunt for the Wilderpeople

US Theatrical Release: June 26, 2016 (New Zealand Release: March 31, 2016) / Running Time: 101 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Taika Waititi / Writers: Taika Waititi (screenplay); Barry Crump (book Wild Pork and Watercress); Tearepa Kahi (additional writing)

Cast: Sam Neill (Hector "Hec" Faulkner), Julian Dennison (Ricky Baker), Rima Te Wiata (Bella Faulkner), Rachel House (Paula Hall), Tiorere Ngatai-Melbourne (Kahu), Oscar Kightley (Andy), Stan Walker (Ron), Mike Minogue (Joe), Cohen Holloway (Hugh), Rhys Darby (Psycho Sam), Troy Kingi (TK), Taika Waititi (Minister), Hamish Parkinson (Gavin), Stu Giles (Sick Man), John Campbell (Himself), Mihingarangi Forbes (Herself), Nadine Chalmers Ross (Herself), Sam Wallace (Himself)

Buy Hunt for the Wilderpeople from Amazon.com: Blu-ray • DVD • Instant Video

In November 2017, masses will gather in multiplexes to see Thor: Ragnarok. Many of these moviegoers will be unfamiliar with the film's director, Taika Waititi of New Zealand.
Those who see much more than just Marvel's superhero movies, however, might know and appreciate his work. Over the past ten years, Waititi has built quite a varied and respectable filmography as a writer, director, and producer. The same résumé that landed him the Thor gig (and a writing credit on Disney's much-anticipated Polynesian musical Moana) has won Waititi admiration far from New Zealand with films like Eagle vs Shark, Boy, and What We Do in the Shadows.

Waititi's fourth feature as director, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, drew near-universal acclaim from critics upon its release in New Zealand at the end of March. North American release followed this summer from a tiny young distributor called The Orchard. Though the studio opened the film in just five theaters and conservatively expanded to a peak of 200, Wilderpeople, with a practically non-existent marketing budget, caught on in America, grossing nearly $5 million here and nearly five times as much as any of The Orchard's other releases.

In "Hunt for the Wilderpeople", foster child Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) and his outdoorsy foster father Hec Faulkner (Sam Neill) go missing in the wild.

At the film's start, troubled 13-year-old Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is dropped off at the rural home of Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hector Faulkner (Sam Neill). Ricky is to be a foster child to this middle-aged couple with no kids of their own. Despite his spotty record in the system, rotund Ricky soon feels at home with the Faulkners, who celebrate his birthday and give him a dog he names Tupac. But just days into what feels like it could be a permanent arrangement, Bella drops dead and child services is prepared to take the boy back and find him a home with a mother figure.

Not having any of that, Ricky stages a suicide, setting a crude stand-in, as well as Hec's shed, ablaze before running away to the bush. He's soon found there by the rugged, illiterate outdoorsman. When Hec fractures his ankle, the two set up camp in the outdoors and fend for themselves. Meanwhile, their disappearance back home raises concerns and sparks a nationwide manhunt to find the missing two. Led by a determined child services agent (Rachel House), authorities fear the worst and even offer a significant reward for the pair's return. Contrary to their suspicions, there is nothing perverted or inappropriate about the boy and the man's alliance. They're just finding a place to fit in at a time when it seems the rest of the world has none.

Hec (Sam Neill) demands action from conspiracy theorist Psycho Sam (Rhys Darby).

Wilderpeople, which Waititi adapted from the semiautobiographical 1986 novel Wild Pork and Watercress by New Zealand's Barry Crump, is very unlike any comedy you've seen. But whereas some other indie and foreign films are celebrated simply for being different from what critics are more frequently exposed to, Wilderpeople is not just good because it's different. It's both different and good.

This imaginative tale is effortlessly investable. The two outsiders have our sympathy from the start and their pairing recalls Carl and Russell from Pixar's Up.
There is a similar dynamic to this grieving widower and the portly, young product of broken homes. There isn't much common ground between the two, but there doesn't need to be. Just having someone else to look out for them means something to both of them and also to us, the viewer.

Waititi fits the film with electronic score and some creative needle drops. He and cinematographer Lachlan Milne shoot this as a piece of nature cinema. Their compositions are striking and appealing. Even if the quirky New Zealand humor doesn't tickle your funny bone (and most of the time, it should), you should still be able to appreciate the film as a moving drama and inventive outdoor adventure.

Despite Wilderpeople's somewhat unprecedented North American success, home video distributor Sony Pictures Home Entertainment decided against a Blu-ray release here and bring it to DVD alone on Tuesday. Somewhere along the line, though, they apparently reconsidered, as Amazon is now taking preorders on a Sony Blu-ray edition that will street on October 25th.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Black Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray ($26.99 SRP; October 25, 2016) and on Instant Video


The nice-looking visuals of Hunt for the Wilderpeople do deserve to be seen in high definition, but alas, we here settle for a fine 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. The picture stays sharp and doesn't exhibit any unusual concerns for standard def. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, meanwhile, is active and highly fulfilling. Subtitles are supplied in English, French, and Spanish, but the accents probably aren't enough to make you need them without a hearing problem.

Writer-director Taika Waititi discusses making the film in the behind-the-scenes featurette. Julian Dennison and Sam Neill share a laugh in the "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" blooper reel.


The DVD's extras begin with an audio commentary by writer-director Taika Waititi.
He is joined via imperfect Skype connection by Sam Neill for the first half and Julian Dennison for the second. It's an enjoyable listen that supplies a light-hearted yet thoughtful New Zealand perspective on film, the depictions, and the experience of making this.

"Behind the Scenes: Hunt for the Wilderpeople" (3:27) is a short and standard making-of featurette comprised chiefly of clips and on-camera remarks from the three commentators. We also hear briefly from amusing supporting player Rhys Darby.

The disc draws to a close with a short blooper reel (2:28).

No trailers for Wilderpeople or anything else are found on the disc.

The static main menu attaches some score to a screen-filling adaptation of the cover art.

With no digital copy included here, the unslipcovered black keepcase holds no inserts alongside the plain silver disc.

Ricky (Julian Dennison) and Hec (Sam Neill) exchange feelings and haikus in the heartfelt ending of "Hunt for the Wilderpeople."


Hunt for the Wilderpeople runs a little long and loses a little steam. But by then it has already stood out for being its own unique, unusual, appealing, diverting thing. Taika Waititi extends his winning streak with this distinct and flavorful little treat.

Whether you opt to wait another month for the Blu-ray edition or settle for this DVD, this movie is well worth seeing and the handful of extras add a little value to a fine feature presentation.

Buy Hunt for the Wilderpeople from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Written and Directed by Taika Waititi: What We Do in the Shadows • Eagle vs Shark
New to Disc: The Meddler • Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising • Louder Than Bombs • The Dark Horse
Sam Neill: The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box • Jurassic Park • The Vow • Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book • The Tudors: Season 1
Up • Eddie the Eagle • Son of Rambow • St. Vincent | Rhys Darby: Coming & Going • Yes Man

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Reviewed September 24, 2016.

Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016 The Orchard, Protagonist Pictures, Defender Films, Piki Films, Curious Films, The New Zealand Film Commission, NZ on Air, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.