Taika Waititi’s last film, What We Do in the Shadows, was one of my favorites of last year—and goddamn, it just keeps getting better with re-watches—and this year he’s got a new movie that looks destined for future top ten lists, too. Hunt for the Wilderpeople played to rave reviews at Sundance, though there’s no US release date yet. It’s likely distributor, The Orchard, has to plan it out around Waititi’s schedule, as he’ll be filming Thor: Ragnarok in Australia later this year. (He’s in pre-production at Marvel now and they’re SO HYPED on him.)
The first trailer for Wilderpeople has been released and it’s classic Waititi—awkward people, visual humor built through editing, and f*cking amazing dialogue exchanges. Whether he’s culling from improvised material or cherry-picking from an adapted source—Wilderpeople is based on a book by New Zealand author Barry Crump—Waititi has a golden ear. He does not miss with his dialogue. Most writer/directors are stronger in one skill set than the other—they’re not necessarily complimentary skills—but Waititi is one who is legit GREAT at both.
The film follows Ricky, a Troubled Youth—who seems hilariously un-troubled by American standards—who gets sent to live in the New Zealand countryside (…the bush? Correct me, Kiwis). There he hooks up with Hec, played by an irascible Sam Neill, and they end up stranded in the wilderness, accidentally launching a manhunt. This is a great trailer, and seeing it, I get why some people refer to Waititi as the “Kiwi Edgar Wright”.
I disagree with that. There’s a gentleness at the core of Waititi’s work you don’t get from Wright. Taika Waititi is smart, sharp-witted, and shy—not the easiest nut to crack. But there’s a genuine kindness in him that spills into the stories he tells. People are silly in Waititi’s world. They’re ridiculous and petty and argumentative, but they’re also demonstrative and affectionate and forgiving. And they say perfect lines of dialogue like, “You’re more like Sarah Connor, in the first movie, before she could do chin-ups.” We’re all seeing this movie, right?