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IMG_9416Here’s the thing: whenever I travel and people find out I am from Australia, these are some common questions and comments I get:

  1. Do you know Hugh Jackman?
  2. OMG you have, literally, all the deadliest animals in the world living there!
  3. Do the toilets really flush in the opposite direction Down Under?

In contrast, our friends across the ditch seem to receive a much more pleasant reception: New Zealand is the beautiful Middle Earth, as made famous by her favourite son, Peter Jackson through his Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. And now, taking over the mantle is another favourite son, Taika Waititi (Flight of the ConchordsWhat We Do In The Shadows and the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok).

Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a troubled teen who, having been passed around the foster care system for years after various misdemeanours, finally settles with the Faulkners, Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hector (Sam Neill) who live in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rolling hills, blue skies and leafy trees. Things are going well for young Ricky until tragedy strikes and Ricky decides to run away.But as we all must admit, city folk just don’t do well out in the bush and Ricky is going around in circles with no supplies and no idea. Needless to say, it does not take long before he is found by Hector.

Through a series of mishaps and misunderstandings, the pair suddenly find themselves the centre of a national man-hunt, led by a determined Child Welfare Services officer, Paula (Rachel House), and bumbling police officer, Andy (Oscar Kightley). Along their months-long run, Ricky and Hec come across a number of interesting and bizarre people who both help and hinder their escape from the authorities, including a conspiracy theorist named Psycho Sam (Rhys Darby).

Watching Hunt for the Wilderpeople made me want to go bush, but I could do without the wild boar. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments that prove good comedy does not require lewd references or swearing. There are also plenty of tender moments, shared on screen beautifully between Neill as the grumpy old man, and young Dennison as the boy who just needs some TLC while reciting haiku.

The soundtrack by Moniker will have you singing the “Ricky Baker Birthday Song” for days.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is out now in Australian and New Zealand cinemas and will be released in the US and UK later in June. Keep an eye out for a cameo by Waititi.