‘RICKY BAKER!’: Our Review of 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Spoilers Ahead)

When movies are advertised via earshot as pitting the disadvantaged against the government on a chase through the woods, the perceived body count racks up.

Director Taika Waititi’s 2016 feature film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, eschews such expectation (and its similar first draft) in exchange for showing the ridiculousness of that conflict, to begin with.


Director and screenwriter Taika Waititi on the set of his 2016 feature film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Chicago.SunTimes.com Photo and Caption)

Over the film’s runtime, director Waititi makes several salient points such as that family isn’t defined by blood, but by (shared) experiences (à la Julian Dennison’s Ricky and Sam Neill’s Hec’s bonding in the woods despite the loss of family earlier in the film).

Also, people with the least will go to the greatest lengths for freedom (à la Ricky and Hec’s escapade through and residence in the woods away from the government and child services).

That being said, there’s also the inverse: those with (a little) more will often only go to any length for money (à la the hunters in the cabin who interfere with Ricky and Hec solely for the reward).

Similarly, that going to any length for an objective is often comic or curious at a distance (à la Paula’s relentless search for Ricky and Hec coming off as deadpan whilst Ricky’s quest for gangsterdom is ridiculed by Hec).


Director and screenwriter Taika Waititi at the New Zealand premiere of 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Zimbio.com Photo and Caption)

That being said, the film establishes that family can transcend blood and often does. The case with Ricky and Hec is clear but Ricky and Bella (at the film’s start) and Ricky and Kahu’s family (at the film’s end) – being mandated into being notwithstanding  – are also cases in point.

Rhys Darby’s Bushman/Psycho Sam is the most extreme example of breaking away, to the conspiracy theorist-extent, to be free, with nothing in tow (his rant against forms keeps this grounded in such pursuits being comically-obsessive).

The three hunters who repeatedly encounter Ricky and Hec in the woods are the only examples of money motivating those with more. Stretching a bit, it’s arguable that they are the veritable face of the people bounty-hunting Ricky and Hec.

Pursuit of the above is seen as an exercise in comic obsession with Paula’s pursuit of Ricky and Hec (her deadpan devotion being the object of television curiosity); the hunters’ pursuit of money (being repeatedly stymied by Ricky and Hec); Bushman/Psycho Sam’s prolonged seclusion from the world (made comic by his anti-form rant); and Ricky’s search for gangsterdom in the wilderness (mocked by Hec) all receiving some form of scorn from someone else.


(from left to right) Stars Rhys Darby, Sam Neill and Julian Dennison and director Taika Waititi at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival premiere of 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople (SLTrib.com Photo and Caption)

All of  the above being said, director Taika Waititi’s 2016 feature film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is, in retrospect, a gorgeously time-lapsed look into a man and a young boy’s quest for family – à la Hec’s tale of Bella accepting them both as neither knew where each was from – and the world’s to keep them apart.

Taika Waititi

Director and screenwriter Taika Waititi poses at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival premiere of 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP Photo and Caption via Easy1065.com)

Director Taika Waititi’s Trademarks in 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople:

  1. Cameo appearance: Director Taika Waititi appears in a brief cameo, as a minister, in 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
  2. Companionship-driven stories: The relationship between Ricky and Hec in this film echoes the father-son relationship in 2010’s Boy or the vampire trio in 2014’s What We Do in the Shadows.
  3. Time-lapse photography used prominently: The passage of time across the mountains and the revolving time-lapse when Paula searches for Ricky and Hec.

(Whilst the opinions and observations above are, unless stated otherwise, the author’s own, the following sources were used for information: AintItCool.com, CinemaBlend.com, ComingSoon.net, Fusion.com, IMDb.com, Independent.co.uk, NYTimes.com, TaikaWaititiResearchProject.Weebly.com, TheSkinny.co.uk, Vulture.com)

The Reverse-Screenwriters’ Club (Spoilers Ensue):

Plot: a young boy and a recently-widowed man escape from the authorities in the New Zealand bush.

Act 1: Ricky decides to get out of the car and meet Bella; Ricky decides to meet Hec inside the house.

Act 2: Ricky decides to have dinner with Hec and Bella at home; Ricky decides to go to his room.

Act 3: Ricky decides to escape the house; Ricky decides to return after being found by Bella in the morning.

Act 4: Bella and Ricky decide to go hunting in the bush; Bella decides to carry the unconscious Ricky back to the house.

Act 5: Ricky decides to celebrate his birthday with Hec and Bella; Ricky chooses to accept his present.

Act 6: Hec and Ricky decide to attend Bella’s funeral service; Hec and Ricky decide to leave mid-service.

Act 7: Ricky agrees to read the letter to Hec; Ricky decides to burn his effigy decoy and flee to the bush.

Act 8: Ricky decides to stick with Hec after he finds him in the woods; Ricky and Hec decide to return to the house.

Act 9: Ricky decides to help Hec after the latter is injured; Ricky and Hec decide to set up camp in the forest.

Act 10: Ricky decides to go hunting for food; Ricky decides to eat Hec’s caught eel instead.

Act 11: Ricky and Hec decide to stop at the cabin they find; Ricky and Hec decide to talk to the hunters who then arrive.

Act 12: Ricky and Hec decide to confront the hunters; Ricky and Hec decide to seize their guns and escape into the woods.

Act 13: Ricky and Hec decide to live in the bush until winter; Ricky and Hec decide to keep moving and raid cabins to survive.

Act 14: Ricky and Hec decide to pillage another discovered cabin; Ricky decides to head alone downriver to find help for the paralysed in-cabin ranger.

Act 15: Ricky decides to approach Kahu for help; Ricky decides to go with Kahu to find help.

Act 16: Ricky chooses to take ‘selfies‘ with the Kahu’s father; Ricky decides to stay the night at their house.

Act 17: Ricky decides to hurry back to the cabin in the morning; Ricky decides to look for Hec in the surrounding woods.

Act 18: Ricky decides to talk to Paula in the woods; Ricky decides to escape from Paula and her men.

Act 19: Ricky decides to go on with the found Hec; Ricky and Hec decide to subdue the hunters in the woods and move on.

Act 20: Hec decides to attack the wild boar in the forest; Ricky decides to shoot the wild boar to save Hec’s life.

Act 21: Ricky and Hec decide to throw Bella’s ashes into the waterfall; Ricky and Hec decide to keep moving.

Act 22: Ricky and Hec decide to keep fleeing from the soldiers; Ricky and Hec decide to go with Bushman/Psycho Sam.

Act 23: Ricky decides to alert Hec to the nearby government troops; Ricky and Hec decide to flee in Bushman/Psycho Sam’s truck.

Act 24: Ricky and Hec decide to keep fleeing from the government forces; Ricky decides to drive the truck into a junkyard.

Act 25: Ricky and Hec separately decide to surrender to the government; Ricky decides to shoot Hec as the latter surrenders.

Act 26: Ricky and Hec decide to go with the police; Ricky agrees to testify in court for his case.

Act 27: Ricky decides to move in with Kahu and her father; Hec decides to leave prison, post-sentence, for rehabilitation.

Act 28: Ricky decides to go and apologise to Hec; Ricky and Hec decide to return to the woods and birdwatch.

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