This New Zealand comic gem (trailer) is about 13-year-old misfit Ricky Baker, whose last-resort foster placement is way, way out in the bush. Frankly, he’d rather be in urban Wellington or Christchurch, hanging with his homies, busting out to his walkman, tagging prime real estate, and living the gangsta life (in his head). But it isn’t to be. He’s too far and too needy to make it back. Not for want of trying.
When Ricky (played superbly by Julian Dennison) disappears into the bush with his foster uncle Hec (Sam Neill, almost unrecognizable under a beard), the child protective system moves into high gear to “rescue” him. This dramatic and high-profile effort to save the boy, one can only imagine, comes after a dozen years of ignoring his needs and the quality and suitability of his placements atop no real understanding of what children need.
Directed with great energy by Taika Waititi, who also wrote the script, it has perhaps one chase scene that goes on too long, but as it occurs, the viewer is still basking in the enjoyment of Hec and Ricky’s hilarious encounter with a real bush man. Colander, anyone?
Manohla Dargis in the New York Times acknowledges Waititi’s effervescent touch reminiscent of Wes Anderson, and says, “Charming and funny, it is a drama masquerading as a comedy about an unloved boy whom nobody wants until someone says, Yes, I’ll love him.” And you will, too.
The credits include mention of drone pilots, and, though there are numerous helicopters in the plot, drones enable an amount of aerial photography heretofore prohibitively expensive. In the film’s travelogue dimensions, also awesome.
Rotten Tomatoes critics rating 100%!; audiences 92%.