It’s 1984, and as Michael Jackson’s Thriller dominates the airwaves, eleven year-old MJ devotee Boy (newcomer James Rolleston) dreams of the day when his long-absent father will return to take him and his younger brother Rocky away from their Nan’s home in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty to see his one-gloved idol live. One weekend when Boy has been left in charge of his younger siblings, it seems as if his wish has come true when his dad Alamein (Taika Waititi, TV’s Flight of the Conchords, Eagle vs Shark) unexpectedly reappears with his scruffy gang-mates the Crazy Horses in tow. But while Boy yearns to reconnect with his father and hear stories of his grand adventures during his time away, Alamein didn’t come home to be his sons’ hero: he’s looking to dig up the loot that he buried in the backyard just before he was sent to prison.
Writer-director-star Waititi’s nostalgic, warm and wickedly funny comedy quickly became the highest-grossing New Zealand film of all time, charming audiences worldwide with its delightfully offbeat spin on the traditional coming-of-age tale. As our young, MJ-loving hero, Rolleston — initially hired as an extra before replacing the original star at the last minute — turns in a remarkably effortless and charismatic performance, while Waititi imbues the film with a magical aura with his whimsical hand-drawn animations, fantasy dance sequences, colourful characters and the gorgeous scenery of the New Zealand coast.