Juvenile delinquent Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) and grumpy stepfather Hec (Sam Neill) go missing in the woods. What follows is a manhunt of epic proportions led by the maniacal adoption agent Paula (Rachel House)
From Taika Waititi of What We Do In the Shadows fame and the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok comes this charming little romp. The film starts with Ricky being taken to his new foster parents, the lovable and quirky Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and grumpy mountain man Hec.
Bella quickly gets Ricky-and the audience for that matter- on her side just before dropping dead leaving the youngster alone with the resentful Hec.
After a darkly comic funeral segment with Waititi himself cameoing as the priest, Ricky sets off into the woods with Hec on his tail. After some unfortunate events, the two get lost for weeks on end and it seems everyone is out to get them since they think the child has been abducted
So here’s the thing, one cannot deny the similarities to Pixar’s Up right to the point of casting the tubby Julian Dennison who slightly resembles the young Russell. Neill also plays it grumpier than ever, the two find something missing in each other etc etc. but I as I have said before, it doesn’t matter if a film is similar or reminds you of another, if it’s done well and sets out what it intends to do, then it’s a win.
This film did just that, I laughed, I didn’t cry cos there weren’t that many sad scenes but unlike the massive overlong blockbusters as of late, I didn’t find myself fidgeting around as much. My eyes were pinned to the screen largely due to Lachlan Milne’s beautiful sweeping shots of New Zealand’s tree tops and woodland area. Seriously the last time I saw so many cut aways to trees was in The Revenant. That and the chemistry between Dennison and Neill is dynamic, the kid himself gets most of the laughs, attempting to be a hard-core street thug, quoting Tupac and such. Neill plays it straight which makes him a great counter balance, he’s reluctant but you can see the affection growing.
As for the rest of the cast, they don’t fall too far either, House’s Paula the social worker is both hilarious and at times quite scary. Her obsessiveness over her motto of no child left behind is somewhat imprinted into her brain and even comes to the point where she brings in the actual military to hunt down the two. Seriously, as the film progresses it just gets quirkier and even more surreal, in a good way.
Hits all the right notes in terms of comedy and drama, a very big contender for best film of the year.