Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) review



Problem child Ricky receives new foster parents. Ricky has a tendency to run away from home, pushing his new foster father to go search for him in the bush. After some accidents, they become the object of a nation-wide hunt, and they decide to stay in the bush and hide.

Go see this movie. It’s wonderful. Very funny. Very touching. It’s a comedy but a lot more interesting and intelligent than most comedies. If you know what I mean. It’s a comedy that is immediately involved with tragic situations in life, but is ultimately uplifting. It stars a fat little kid named Ricky (Julian Dennison) who’s an orphan. He’s what we call a problem child. According to the childcare services his past is full of aggressive behavior (cue a funny montage of him drawing genitalia and throwing stuff), but when we meet him for the first time he is a silent, apathetic young teenager, completely disengaged from everything.

The childcare services deliver Ricky to his new foster parents. The overly caring mother Bella (Rima Te Wiata) receives him with love, while the ehh.. rather militant woman Paula from childcare warns Bella about Ricky’s attitude. The foster father is Hec (Sam Neill as a grumpy, grizzled-looking hunter), and he’s like: “I never chose to adopt any kid!” You can guess what happens next. The kid and Sam Neill will have to work together. Hec melts over time and starts to look after Ricky, and Ricky, well, he is still trying to find his way in life, but the adventure that envelops them does wonders for his attitude.


This movie has some dark twists and turns that I didn’t see coming (no spoilers). It’s a very episodically told tale, nothing too complex, but it makes you wonder where the story is going. At one point, Ricky and Hec are surviving the winter in the bush while they are hunted by the militant childcare services and a bunch of kiwi rednecks. How will this end? Will they make their stand somewhere and go out in a blaze of glory? That would be Ricky’s preference, because “the gangster life chose him”, and it chose Hec apparently as well.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a New Zealand (Kiwi) production, directed and adapted to screen by Taika Waititi, who was also responsible for the amazing comedy What We Do in the Shadows (2014). The same sharp comedy and intelligence is at work in his new film. Great lines, great characters and some heartwarming moments. Julian Dennison is amazing as the recalcitrant Ricky – you totally believe his slacker attitude and love his deadpan comments – and Sam Neill I didn’t even recognize till I saw his name on the screen. The landscape of New Zealand is a character in itself. Great shots of forests, waterfalls, mountains.

If you sync with the comedy style of this movie, then the characters will quickly grow on you and you’ll feel involved with their plight. It’s almost effortlessly heartfelt and charming. It seems a rather simple movie but it is all very well thought out. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is perhaps the best comedy of the year and one of the better movies of the year in general.

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4 Responses to Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) review

  1. Frank Prem says:

    Great write Jeroen.

    I’ll tyr to see this – missed it in the cinema, sadly.




  2. jameswharris says:

    I loved this film, maybe a little more than you. I wonder why so many wonderful quirky films come from down under?

    Liked by 1 person

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