The Tupac loving teenager Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) in Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016) will have you laughing out loud. With his serious face and very funny one-liners you won’t be able to not laugh. Good comedy movies like this should have some kind of award. I have no idea why this one doesn’t.
The story is lovely and hilarious. Ricky and “Uncle” Hector (Sam Neill) are both endearing and delightful on screen, even when they are being “mean”.
The unlikely duo’s relationship begins with wariness and indifference. But quickly develops into a sweet friendship due to being thrust together in an unexpected adventure.
No Child Left Behind
Driving out to the middle of nowhere in the New Zealand bush a police car pulls up outside a small house. Child welfare officer Paula Hall (Rachel House) and Ricky Baker step out of the car. Dressed in a hoodie, sneakers and a tiger print baseball cap Ricky looks confused. Bewildered, Ricky looks at the vast space of the bush around him. Rushing out to greet Ricky Bella Falkner (Rima Te Wiata) gives him a big hug. Chuffed to have him there she tries to make a joke with him but he doesn’t react and remains silent as he walks off.
Paula informs Bella about his mischievous escapades that include spitting, stealing, running away, throwing rocks and kicking stuff. Warning her that’s just the stuff they know about.
Trying to break the ice, Bella tells Ricky to call her Auntie, even though she’s not his Auntie. Ricky still says nothing.
A Pig Getting A Piggy Back
Coming towards them over the hill is a huge pig’s head. The pig’s head is above a human head.v “Uncle” Hector is carrying the pig on his back and stares at them unsmiling. Ricky also stares unsmiling. Paula and Andy (Oscar Kightley), the police officer accompanying her leave Ricky to his new family.
At dinner on Ricky’s first evening Bella introduces Hector and tells him he can call him Uncle. Hector immediately says, “No, he can’t,” and asks him if he has ever worked on a farm before or is he just ornamental?
Ricky gets up and walks away from the table and says goodnight. Bella scolds Hector for being so insensitive.
The Red Hottie
Sitting on the bed in his room full clothed in his hoodie and cap Ricky is staring at the wall. Knocking on his door, Bella checks to see if he is okay. Speaking from outside his door she lists all the things that she put in the room for him. Books, lamps, cats and a knife to kill the monsters at night. She tells him she cannot imagine what he’s been through and she’s left a hottie in the bed for him.
Ricky pulls back his sheets and stares at the red hot water bottle.
Not Quite The Great Escape
Pitch black outside and Ricky creeps out of his room and grabs a torch. He runs away from the house and starts to scarper into the bush.
Daylight comes and Ricky is laying on the ground asleep with his hoodie zipped up completely hiding his face. He’s startled awake by a dog sniffing at him and rolls around freaking out until he sits up. Unzipping his hoodie he’s met with a smiling Bella sitting nearby having a smoke. “Jeez, boy, it’s a miracle we found you. You made it all of 200 metres,” Bella laughs looking over at her house in the distance.
She tells him to come back to the house and that he can run away after he has had some breakfast.
Busily working in his shed Hector gets annoyed when Bella sends Ricky to him to give him something to do. Ricky tries to make conversation about Hector’s dog Zag. He tells him to get another and call it Zag. Hector is not amused and tells Ricky to leave him alone.
The next night Ricky packs his stuff but then he sees the hottie. Hugging the hottie, he decides to not run away.
The next morning Bella pretends to be surprised that he’s still there, as she thought he was running away. He makes some excuse and instead tells her he likes making up Haiku, to express his feelings. He makes one up on the spot about maggots due to all the dead things he’s seen around the place.
Once Rejected, Now Accepted
It’s Ricky’s thirteenth birthday and Bella goes all out. First there is the cake and the song. Bella plays the song she has made up for him on her little organ. The song and Ricky’s reaction are one of the funniest parts in the movie. The movie is worth watching just for that.
The icing on the cake (ha ha) is his present. A sweet little dog looks up at Ricky and he runs over to hug him. Extremely grateful to them he says it’s his best birthday ever. Or possibly the only birthday he’s had, he muses.
Tupac Or Not To Pack
It’s night-time and Ricky tells Bella he’ll call his dog Tupac, after the really cool rapper, who is also his friend. Asking him if he will run away again he replies that he’s not sure. Okay she says but just make sure you’re back for breakfast.
Like most stories there are the highs and the lows. This story is no different and after his birthday there is an unexpected event. And that is the trigger that pushes Ricky into a crazy adventure with his Uncle Hector.
Making a cameo appearance in his movie is the New Zealand writer and director Taika Waititi. Famous more recently for the comedy JoJo Rabbit, that he also wrote and directed and which won many awards.
He adapted both JoJo Rabbit and Hunt For The Wildepeople from books. The former from Christine Leunens’s book Caging Skies and the latter from Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump.
Good comedy movies like this can be watched over and over again. And I know, given some time, I will be watching this movie again.
I saw this movie 3 years after it was released, I’d missed it completely first time round.
Did you miss it too?
Let me know in the comments if you missed it and if you are tempted to watch it now, and if so, why? Or did you see it already? Great! What was your funniest bit?