Movie Review: "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" directed by Taika Waititi

A man in a long sleeve shirt in hunting gear stands next to a young teen in a red jacket wearing a backwards cap on the film cover for "Hunt for the Wilderpeople"
Don't mess with this wild duo! Reference photo from Collider.

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, you should check out Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It is a fun movie to watch with friends and family!

Taika Waititi unapologetically blends offbeat humor with a charming, quick wit in all of his movies—but especially Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

 He has received a lot of acclaim for directing wildly entertaining movies such as Thor: Ragnarok and What We Do in the Shadows. Waititi even won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for the boundary-pushing, Jojo Rabbit. However, Hunt for the Wilderpeople exemplifies Waititi's unique, bold style of comedy.

Ricky Baker, played by Julian Dennison, is a juvenile delinquent that moves in with a couple, who live near the New Zealand bush, because of child welfare services. Although Rickey cannot seem to stay out of trouble, he enjoys writing and reciting haikus, reading books, and talking about being a gangster. Many of the movie's best jokes stem from these interests.

Ricky ends up bonding with the cheerful Bella, played by Rima Te Wiata, and her cranky husband, Hector, who is portrayed by Sam Neill. Bella casually jokes about Ricky's attempts at running away and hunts down a wild boar with him. One of the sweetest scenes in the whole movie involves Bella singing her own, catchy rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" to her new foster son. Then, she even surprises Ricky with a pet dog named Tupac on his 13th birthday. Overall, Bella is a positive influence on him.

Unfortunately, everything changes when Bella abruptly dies.

In order to avoid going back to juvenile prison, Ricky fakes his death by burning a dummy but accidentally burns down Hector's barn. Then, he flees into the New Zealand bush where he runs into Hector. They work together amidst a few confrontations with a vicious boar and some rude hunters. Rumors about their circumstances and whereabouts spread and become breaking news throughout New Zealand.

As they keep wandering, the Department of Child Welfare goes on an epic manhunt for the both of them. Although they eventually catch up to the duo after a high-octane car chase, Ricky and Hector avoid lengthy sentences and remain friends. I always grin from ear to ear whenever I think about Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

Waititi successfully manages to squeeze in some clever, amusing writing during the more serious moments, like Bella's funeral or when Ricky and Hector argue with each other while trying not to get captured. This story thrives from originality and excellent comedic timing, which makes Hunt for the Wilderpeople a rewatchable movie. 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is available for streaming on Kanopy and borrowing on DVD from the Jefferson County Library Cooperative, including all 16 active Birmingham Public Library locations.

Find more film and game recommendations (and another Waititi recommendation) to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month on our other blog

By William Anthony | Librarian Ⅰ, Citizen Services Department