Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople was sold out and well-received at its Sundance premiere over the weekend, with the first round of reviews uniformly positive.
Tim Grierson’s Screen Daily review called the film “warmly funny and deeply delightful … a tale of two misfits told with such generosity of spirit and consistent good humour that it’s a pleasant surprise to discover how sneakily touching it is as well … blending action, laughs and sentiment, this droll comedy is a modest but rich charmer”.
Offering plenty of praise for various cast members, as did other reviewers, Grierson said, “Expect good reviews and nice buzz coming out of Park City”, summing up with “a lovely small film that does nothing momentous but exudes such a happy glow”.
Dennis Harvey’s Variety review called Wilderpeople “a pleasing comedy-adventure that pays cheeky homage to key early works from that nation’s first filmic renaissance”, noting Goodbye Pork Pie and Smash Palace among the crop of references that will be missed by most, as well as noting the Sleeping Dogs turn as a fugtive by lead Sam Neill, whom the reviewer calls the film’s “stealth weapon … lending both the comic and dramatic elements extra ballast”.
Boyd van Hoeij’s Hollywood Reporter said, “[Waititi’s] nimble adaptation here combines solid writing with an entire bag of filmmaking tricks that includes visual gags, unexpected cuts and quick montage sequences to score laughs from the get-go.”
More direct with its praise than Variety, THR called the film “a deliciously good time at the movies … [a] familiar but perfectly balanced blend of drama and comedy, action and heart” and observing “what makes Wilderpeople memorable is how attached audiences become to the characters”.
As Variety had, THR also predicted would “do solid business at home … while also exciting distributors further afield”.
Nigel Smith’s Guardian review highlighted the “uniformly hilarious and committed cast”, noting “Dennison holds his own opposite Neill, who hasn’t been tasked with such a gravely amusing role in years. Together, the two are comic dynamite.”
Coinciding with the Sundance screening, producers released a teaser clip.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople teaser
Hunt for the Wilderpeople was produced by Defender Films, The New Zealand Film Commission, NZ On Air and Piki Films. Sales are by CAA (USA) and Protagonist Pictures (world excluding US and Australasia). The NZ release date will be 31 March.