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Hunt for the Wilderpeople - Film Review

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by Tabitha Page (subscribe)
I'm an amateur writer and photographer born and raised in New Zealand and now living in Melbourne, Australia. Find me on Facebook and Instagram
Published May 29th 2016
"I didn't choose the skuxx life, the skuxx life chose me"
Warning: This review contains spoilers.

What would you do with a child who is uncontrollable? Who spits, burns things, sets mailboxes on fire, graffiti's property, kicks things and is generally 'a real bad egg'. A juvenile detention center? A foster home?

Despite his arguments against it, 13 year old Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) has just one more chance. All of his bad behavior has led to this being his only chance at freedom.

Delivered to his new foster family out in the bush by child welfare officer Paula Hall (Rachel House) and a laid back police officer. Ricky meets his new family, the loving, but in Ricky's eyes somewhat smothering, Auntie Bella (Rima te Wiata) and the sullen and solitary Uncle Hec (Sam Neill).

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Ricky Baker arrives at his new home

Despite the care that Auntie Bella has put into welcoming Ricky, he finds it hard to settle into their home. He's a city boy at heart, stuck in the bush with strangers. He sneaks out in the night, quickly getting himself lost in the bush surrounding his new home. Found by Auntie Bella, he is whisked back for a home cooked meal and starts to bond with her and in his own way, with Uncle Hec.

Ricky finds himself welcomed by Auntie Bella but not so much by Uncle Hec who never wanted a foster child and only agreed to take him to appease his wife. Ricky has started to settle in and has a birthday with the two, which includes a special birthday song created for Ricky and sung by Bella, and a special birthday gift of a dog of his very own which he lovingly names Tupac. It is his best birthday, in fact, it is his very first birthday.

When Aunty Bella suddenly passes away child welfare decides that it is in Ricky's best interests to be taken from the home and put into either a group home or more likely, juvie. Of course young Ricky Baker is having none of this nonsense and packing a bag, a rifle and taking his dog he sets fire to the barn, hoping to convince child welfare services that he burned himself to death and he then goes bush.

Ricky treks in to the beautiful NZ bushland and tries (in the funniest ways) to ration his food and then forage and hunt for more food whilst attempting to get as far away as possible. Whilst doing so he manages to get himself lost and is unable to find his way back, even when he gives up and wants to return to Uncle Hec.

Luckily for Ricky, Uncle Hec and his faithful dog Zag are hot on his trail and soon come across the rundown, starving and grumpy pair. After a bit of hilarious back and forth and some telling off on both parts, there is a commotion and Uncle Hec is injured. The pair must then camp out in the bush for a while until Uncle Hec is able to move on his fractured foot. Working together the pair manage to make it to a hut in the bush where they have a run-in with a group of hunters.

Meanwhile, child welfare officer Paula Hall has come to collect the fugitive/runaway foster child and discovered him missing in action. She has called the full power of the police force and the military to help in the search for Ricky under the assumption that the grumpy, crazy, bereaved old Hec has gone off his head and kidnapped the child. It is now a full scale manhunt and Ricky Baker and Hec are the targets.

Ricky and Hec both are determined to avoid capture. Ricky convinces his uncle to help him stay out of Juvie and Hec admits that he would rather live in the bush that go back to jail as he had been to jail for manslaughter in the past. They make a pact to rough it and help each other out.

Staying one step ahead of the authorities, the pair grow closer as they run, creep, sneak supplies, save a diabetic ranger, sleep rough, hunt, try to stay warm and hide from the relentless Paula Hall. The adventure is full of laughs but inevitably comes to a close after child welfare officer Paula Hall and the authorities flush the pair out and a car chase ends in Hec giving himself up, realizing that it was over and that nothing good was going to come from continuing to run. After accidentally shooting Hec, Ricky also ends up in the hands of the police.

But good news! The movie does end on a positive note, Ricky gets the family he always needed and Ricky and Hec still get to go bush together.

Based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump and written and directed by the very talented Taika Waititi, this movie Hunt for the Wilderpeople has fast become a box office hit and a favorite with many.

The film premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival in January 2016 and it opened New Zealand wide in March 2016. It fast set New Zealand box office records for highest-grossing opening weekend/first week and people have been raving about it on and offline.

A very talented cast made up of Sam Neill (Dead Calm, Jurassic Park) as Uncle Hec, Rima Te Wiata (Sons and Daughters, Housebound) as Auntie Bella, Rachel House (Rider, Eagle) as Paula, the social worker, the young up and coming star Julian Dennison (Paper Planes, Shopping) as the stubborn and strong Ricky Baker and many more fantastic actors take us on a journey through the beautiful land that is New Zealand.

We see the gorgeous bushland of Aotearoa and we see the ways of New Zealand. Those of us who are from New Zealand hear the jokes, words, sayings that are to us very obviously kiwi. To others they might be a little strange, quirky and maybe they will be funny. To us they might be hilarious. But one thing is for sure. It is something different and there is something in it that everyone should enjoy.

The NZ flick is well written and with plenty of laughter and joking around. It has lots of humor but is still telling a story and relaying a serious message, but in a sensitive way. The movie is a work of art that stands alone. It is one of a kind with plenty of Kiwi humour. It is just another in a line of big-screen hits and talented writers and directors coming out of the small country, once again showing that NZ is a force to be reckoned with.

Of course, no smash hit movie is complete without a super talented cast and this movie has talent in droves. From Northern Irish-born New Zealand actor Sam Neill, whose experience and quick wit bring plenty of laughter and depth to the storyline, to the laid back, funny, confident and spirited young New Zealander Julian Dennison who brings his own pizazz to Taika Waititi's masterpiece.

A huge thumbs up to all involved:writers, director and actors. This is a must see, so drag your mates and family along to watch. Grab your popcorn and drink and sit down for a laugh. Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a 'majestical' movie guaranteed to bring a smile!

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Why? For a 'majestical' movie guaranteed to bring a smile
When: Times vary , see cinema websites
Where: At cinema's all over Australia and NZ
Cost: Costs vary, See websites or phone
Your Comment
I just saw this movie today - we absolutely loved it. Being an ex-Kiwi now living on the wonderful land of Oz, it's great to see the beautiful NZ landscape and also be reminded of those great little quirks that make Kiwis - well - who they are. A couple of "little" tears along the way along with plenty of laughs and with a great ending. Highly recommend it. Thank you for the review.
by Therese B (score: 2|287) 1323 days ago
cant wait to see it- thanks.
by Kat May (score: 3|1400) 1328 days ago
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