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Franchise Free and Fantastic

Ros Hull

Ros Hull reviews two great kids movies: The BFG and Hunt For the Wilderpeople.

School holidays! We all know what to expect from the family friendly franchises being offered but what about these two stand-alone films? 

I don’t for a moment think sequels are a bad thing (watch me be among the first to line up for the next Star Trek) but these have become the norm in commercial filmmaking, instead of the exception. If it can’t be stretched out to at least three films, is it really worth investing in? Therefore it seems wonderfully creative and refreshingly brave to make a stand-alone film.


Steven Spielberg (along with George Lucas) pretty much invented the film franchise. However, with The BFG he is in Hook territory – taking wonderful source material and making it achingly beautiful, at times hilarious and at others, dangerous. Full of the ebb and flow of real emotions, it allows two lonely creatures to find each other, have adventures and by the time the credits roll, leave the world a better place.

About three minutes in I was totally captivated by BFG and caught myself hoping he would make more films … um, hello? He isn’t actually real (although I want him to be). He is the result of a genius collaboration between the voice and motion capture of actor Mark Rylance (Best Supporting Actor for Spielberg’s last film, Bridge of Spies), Weta Digital’s Joe Letteri, Spielberg and the wonderful script by Melissa Mathison.

Sadly, Mathison died last year and though she didn’t write many scripts, she wrote great ones. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was her last collaboration with Spielberg. Her care with, and note-perfect extension of, Roald Dahl’s book is the beating heart of what I have to say is the most magical film I’ve seen in a while. Not for the littlies but if the kids love the dark humour of other Roald Dahl stories they should enjoy this. I can see references to the Quentin Blake illustrations of the original book and it is all so gloriously ‘80s too.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

An entire world away – and produced with much simpler filmmaking techniques – is the brilliant film from New Zealand, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. As different as it is possible to be, nevertheless it shares an honest depiction of emotions and two lonely people finding each other with The BFG.

I could go back and watch this again tomorrow, I loved it. And if I were a teacher of Year 6 through to about Year 8, I would use this as a jumping off point to discuss life, death, the universe and everything.

What it says about the paths we are given in life – even about what it is to be human – is rich but so, so subtle. It is at once charming and irreverent, hilarious and sad, larger than life … and just a small film about a kid and an old bloke in the bush of NZ.

Sam Neill is, as always, terrific but he is no match for Julian Dennison! This kid is a force of nature – I loved him in Paper Planes (as Ed Oxenbould’s school friend) and he is just stellar as Ricky, the hopeless foster child case on his very last chance to get a family. He owns the screen. However, it is Neill’s grace in allowing the younger character to shine that gives this film the best ‘buddy’ vibe I have seen in ages.

The director (Taika Waititi) is getting real traction as a filmmaker of note, with four of his films premiering at the Sundance Film Festival … and his next feature being a little one called Ragnarok (the next Thor adventure). He made What We Do in the Shadows (hilarious) and appeared in that as Viago. In this film he has a Monty Python-esque cameo as a minister seemingly obsessed with Coke Zero – don’t ask, best you just go see the film!

Again, the story comes from excellent source material in the original book by Barry Crump, and again the production is wonderful. This is a very different view of New Zealand, wilder, daggier and more incredible than any other I have seen. I laughed out loud as often as I worried for the fate of the characters, or lost heart over what would become of them.

I also loved the crazy credits: Wildercast, Wildercrew, Wilderdogs …

Roslyn saw both these films as a guest of Limelight Cinemas Tuggeranong.

Ros Hull

Ros saw Star Wars and immediately wanted to fly the Millenium Falcon. Unable to do that she became a Jill-of-all-trades as her army husband whirled her around the world – and back to Canberra 10 years ago. She has worked in public programs and museum education ever since. She gained an MA in writing whilst getting two daughters through high school - both are now at university and undeniably fabulous (according to her). She can worry as an Olympic sport so she sees lots of movies instead. More about the Author

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