Last Sunday night I was at Alice’s Cinema watching Hunt for the Wilderpeople, while Saturday night I was at home watching Country Calendar! The sublime to the ridiculous you might think, but both in their own ways were a delight. I agree with the reviews (including our own) that Hunt For the Wilderpeople is a wonderful romp, lots of laughs and a salute to the great outdoors and the people who make it their own.
Country Calendar does this without the car chases, but features many interesting and varied people who work on the land. Frank Torley, the man behind the voice of many an episode, was featured on Saturday and seeing him on his own piece of land and hearing his story was made all the more poignant by the fact that he has recently died.
If you like a bit of a good yarn you can wallow in the Country Calendar DVDs, read biographies of the varied people who have worked the land over the years, or listen to some good old country music. You could even have a go at creating your very own outdoor experience in your own back yard.
So how was the movie, and how does it differ from the book?
I found Hunt for the Wilderpeople a delight from beginning to end. It’s a distinctly Kiwi film that features a raft of idiosyncratic characters but which centres on the relationship between an irascible older man and a Māori boy. It’s not so much a film in the vein of “a man alone” as “a man not quite as alone as he’d like to be”.
Needless to say “hijinks ensue”. There are chases, gunplay and eventually grudging respect. If you can imagine a cop “buddy” movie but set in the Ureweras instead of downtown Los Angeles, you’ll start to get an idea of the dynamic and humour. There are also some notable and hilarious cameos.
In Hunt for the Wilderpeople we slowly get under the skin of taciturn bushman, Uncle Hec (played by the always excellent Sam Neill), and gangsta-wannabe Ricky Baker (played with charm and humour by newcomer Julian Dennison) and we find, despite their obvious differences, that there’s a whole lot of heart and genuine warmth there.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is probably in my top five movies of the last couple of years and I’m even considering a rewatch (in a cinema – waiting for it to come out on DVD is just too long).
But is it a good adaptation of the novel? Well, it differs a lot from the book and Waititi has gone on record as saying that he wanted to create a film that was “in the spirit” of the novel rather than being a straight adaption.
Updating the novel for a modern audience has meant certain changes – cellphones and selfies were certainly not a thing in the eighties when Crump was writing it. In addition the ending of the movie is a tad more upbeat than that of the source novel, and there’s less of a focus on bushcraft and more of a focus on comedy, all of which makes the movie a more enjoyable experience for me than if it had stuck to the straight and narrow.