Please grandmas of the world heed the PG-13 rating of this film. ” The Hunt For The Wilderpeople” is not for children under the age of a mature ten. This is a film that needs to be talked about and processed. ( Leaving a five, seven and eight-year -old alone in the theatre while you go to the restroom is not okay either. ) Weapons~ hunting knives and rifles~ are used sometimes to disastrous effect. A foster mom dies of a heart attack, a care-giver is falsely accused of molestation, a maimed dog is put down with a shot to the head, and a wild boar’s neck is sliced in bloody man to beast combat. When a five-year-old patron left her seat to jump on her grandma’s lap, I winced for her. This film is not for the light of heart, though it deals with child abandonment in a positive light and is often humorous. Keep primary school children at home. The film is an adaptation of Barry Crumb’s novel “Wild Pork & Watercress” and actually uses chapter headings to divide ten episodic scenes. Does ” A Real Bad Egg” & “War” remind some adults of ” Green Eggs & Ham” ?!
Director and actor, Taika Waititi of “What We Do In The Shadows” vampire fame has given us a good story about a sweet teen, Ricky Baker, ( Julian Dennison) who has been lost in the foster care system long enough to absorb a gangster culture of dress, culture and attitude. ” I got poop on my kicks.” and ” “bush” you said” lets us know he is streetwise.
Some of the funniest lines however come from adopting former therapists’ lingo. In his animal print cap and dollar sign emblazoned shirt, Ricky mimics child welfare workers et.al. by asking his taciturn foster dad ” if he is still processing “. “Sorry” , he says to Hec ( Sam Neill ) after he shoots him in the back, ” I got carried away being an outlaw.”
Neill is wonderfully understated as the foster dad who will come to be called “Uncle”. As a New Zealand woodsman, he teachers his charge how to be self-sufficient in the bush. Head for high ground and seek out a water source, also , keep your clothes on are lessons absorbed. Ricky names the only birthday present he has ever received “Tupac”, and he and the dog take off. Much of the film is centered on a chase, a ten thousand dollar reward, and a ” bush-man” crazy with conspiracy theories galore.
Hec and Ricky survive for over five months dodging authorities. Ricky burns Hec’s barn down and leaves an effigy he hopes will trick the child welfare service. Off in the forest Hec and Ricky bond. Original music and imagery that has the audience flying over pine peaks sets up a magisterial nature-church, choral music and all.
Enjoy the haiku therapy, Hec learning to read, slug salad, the Amber backstory, and the manhunt and the special lake that almost touches the sky. Throw in the extinct bird sighting, a beauty on horseback and a comatose ranger, and we have quite a paen to freedom in “The Hunt For The Wilderpeople”. Just don’t bring any mates younger than ten. They are better off not learning how to ” go out in a blaze of glory.”