Over the past few years I had given up on the modern comedy film. You know, that kind of over-the-top, Will Ferrell-esque comedy that fails to scratch the emotional surface any deeper than a Hallmark Card. You might say, “It’s a comedy, why does it have to be emotional?”
Well here’s the thing: if you can’t make me feel anything, I don’t care about your characters. And if I don’t care about your characters, you’ve lost the ability to do anything subtle in the film, because people just aren’t paying attention. That’s how you get this kind of less-than-smart, obnoxious comedy style you see in the theatres these days.
I’m not saying they can’t make you laugh, because they can. But it’s a cheap laugh, and in a moment its forgotten.
That is why this weekend when my brother asked me to watch a comedy called Hunt For The Wilderpeople, it took some convincing to get me to watch.
This movie is everything good about the comedy genre.
It starts with a young delinquent gangster boy named Ricky who gets dropped off at a New Zealand farm belonging to Bella and Hector. SPOILER ALERT AHEAD–so turn away now if you haven’t seen the movie.
The movie starts out like this:
Ricky hates living there at first but quickly warms up to it, culminating in a birthday gift from the two of them of a dog that he decides to name Tupac. But in the first ten minutes of the movie Bella, the friendly, plump little farmer (who’s the one that actually wants Ricky around) dies of a heart attack. Child services issues a letter that they’re going to take him back to a foster house (or worse).
Hector doesn’t seem all that fond of Ricky at all, so Ricky decides to take off into the bush and escape. Hector, who’s an illiterate survivalist goes to find him in the forest but accidentally breaks his ankle upon finding him. They wait out several weeks for the injury to heal, but in the meantime, the outside world assumes Hector has kidnapped Ricky. So the unlikely duo is stuck together and heads off deeper into the bush–high-jinx ensues.
The fact that they kill off a character right away is heart breaking but so real. They have this super awkward funeral with like 8 people in attendance where the Priest (who happens to be the director, Taika Waititi) explains life/death as “a maze, with a door. Or two doors, but behind that door is– another door. And behind that door. Is…is Jesus.”
The film is full of so many wonderful, original characters. Ricky is this hilarious, lovable chubby gangster kid. He just constantly surprises you with the funniest lines like:
“[reading wanted poster] ‘Hector is cauc-asian’ – well, they got that wrong because you’re obviously white.”
He refuses to call Hector anything but Uncle the whole movie. You just get so attached to these two characters who eventually become the unlikeliest of friends as they brave the wilderness and run into all kinds of ridiculous things: like a crazy bush man, a near-dead guy, and a gang of idiot hunters. But all these situations in the plot are just made so much funnier because I actually care about the characters.
Another thing, this movie is absolutely beautiful. Filmed in the most gorgeous and wildest parts of New Zealand, sometimes you feel like you’re in an episode of Planet Earth. They have these incredibly wide overhead shots of the landscape and it’s honestly breathtaking sometimes.
They have this sort of cinematography style too that echoes Wes Anderson a little bit. But it makes you laugh simply in the physical comedy of each shot and cut. Like in one of the first scenes when Bella kills a wild bore down by the creek so nonchalantly with a smile on her face. It’s shot like an old school horror movie, the knife flies above her head in it’s own close up shot, then as it comes down blood flies out to the side, and Ricky passes out unconscious.
The humour is so uniquely New Zealand. I don’t know how to describe it, just the right amount of dryness, but clever and kind of adorable.
Shit I don’t know, I could ramble about how good this movie was for a long time, but just ask the internet.
Holy wow look at those ratings. I wasn’t kidding around.
Regardless, The main point I’m trying to get across is that the quirkiness, realness, and sprinkling of serious emotion is what made this movie such a fantastically affective comedy. In fact–look above, it doesn’t even label itself as a comedy, according to Google. But it is. And it’s just so much better than some stuff that’s out there right now.
So go see it.