Comedy/Adventure/Drama, 101 Minutes, 2016
One of the greatest, simplest joys in life is to be pleasantly surprised by something unexpected. A favorite meal on an ordinary day or an unexpected visit from an old friend. Or, in this case, an amazing movie that popped up from nowhere.
Any expectations are subverted immediately and hilariously. Ricky (Julian Dennison [IMDB]) is a foster child being brought to a new home. His new foster mum, Bella (Rima Te Wiata [IMDB]) is thrilled to see him. Cheerfully, without a whit of maliciousness, she exclaims, “You’re a big fella! Who ate the guy who ate all the pies, eh?”
She’s absolutely adorable in her addled, completely sincere, devotion to her new ward. Ricky grudgingly responds despite her husband, Hec’s (Sam Neill [IMDB], in his best role in years) best attempts to make himself inhospitable. The humor is quick-fire and infectious. It results in the kind of long, joyful belly-laughs that make your sides hurt and your eyes water.
Events occur and, eventually, Ricky and Hec are stranded alone in the New Zealand outback – the “wilderpeople” – on the run from the law. It’s no surprise that their relationship grows and the two oddballs grow closer. What’s refreshing is that the characters remain consistent throughout. A lazy film changes its characters to create the result it wants. This film places pressure on the characters and forces them to grow and adapt.
The events are absurd, but the feelings they evoke are grounded and meaningful. Ridiculous things spawn moments of pure, unadulterated joy while the most serious of events are treated with respectful irreverence. The movie hits each and every note expertly without caring if it does. It’s difficult to express how joyful – and rare – that can be.