Hunt for the Wilderpeople Parent Guide
A foster kid and his reluctant care-giver find a familial bond in this quirky Kiwi movie that infuses its story with humor and charm.
Parent Movie Review
Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) has been in and out of trouble as often as he’s been in and out of foster homes. After calling him a “bad egg,” his Child Services Officer Paula (Rachel House) tells the gangster-wannabe in no uncertain terms that Bella and Hector Faulkner (Rima Te Wiata and Sam Neill) are his last option. They are a childless couple living in rural New Zealand, far away from the city streets the unwanted child is used to.
The new home gets off to a rough start as the rebellious thirteen-year-old tests Bella’s warm acceptance and Heck’s cold tolerance. Despite his professed toughness, the rotund youth also finds country living requires greater grit than he’s got – especially after he witnesses the slaughtering of a wild pig (which includes a lot of blood) and is asked to clean dead animals. Then, just about the time Ricky settles into the place, the authorities decide to move him to a different location. Unwilling to accept their decision, Ricky runs away – but not before burning down the Faulkner’s barn.
It is a reluctant Heck who dutifully comes to his rescue. Knowing full well the urban dweller won’t be able to survive in the wild, the experienced outdoorsman tracks him down intending to return him to Paula. However, an accident leaves Heck with a broken leg and dependent on Ricky to fend for him until he is strong enough to hike back to civilization. When they return six weeks later, the pair discovers they are at the center of a national manhunt. Misinterpreting the situation, the government believes Ricky has been kidnaped by Heck, whom they suspect is mentally unstable and possibly dangerous. When some innocent remarks made by Ricky are misunderstood as well, child molester is added to the list. Rather than face the accusations Heck decides to run – and Ricky happily follows.
Most of the movie follows the fugitives as they hide in the rugged New Zealand bush, where Ricky learns survival skills like camping and hunting game, and occasionally steals necessities such as shoes and toilet paper. Comparing their long trek to that of the African wildebeests, Ricky gives them the nickname of “wilderpeople.” As the pair face off against man, nature and untamed animals, Heck develops a fatherly concern for the boy. These feelings of affection help the older man work through some of the hurt and grief of his own past.
Unfortunately, the film presents a few content issues of which parents will want to be aware. There is a lot of profanity used in this script, along with sexual finger gestures and words that sound like a strong sexual expletive. Both Heck and Bella smoke. And evading the police is portrayed as fun and adventurous. Fist-fights, gun use and car chases are part of this depiction. Authority figures are shown in an unfavorable light too – especially the Child Services Officer who oversteps her legal boundaries and uses derogatory names and verbal threats in an attempt to subdue Ricky. This, coupled with the recounting of the tragic mistreatment and death of one of the boy’s fellow foster friends, says nothing kind about the care of abandoned children.
In the end, Ricky and Heck face consequences for their reckless behavior. Whether or not that redeems their misdemeanors will likely be a matter of opinion. Personally, I found positive growth in both the young and old offender. Although it takes a while, they eventually stop fleeing and start confronting their fears. Discovering they have more in common than they realized, the two share each other’s sorrows and form a familial bond. This relationship, along with the quirky Kiwi humor, infuses the story with a lot of charm. Somehow that helped me forgive the characters of their foibles during thier hunt to find themselves.Directed by Taika Waititi . Starring Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata. Running time: 101 minutes. Theatrical release June 24, 2016. Updated July 17, 2017
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Rating & Content Info
Why is Hunt for the Wilderpeople rated PG-13? Hunt for the Wilderpeople is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic elements including violent content, and for some language.
Violence: A young offender is depicted vandalizing property and stealing. Animals are hunted, killed and cleaned. Guns and knives are used, usually on wild game, but also to threaten people. Encounters with wild pigs and bores result in a gory slaughtering and injuries to people and a domesticated dog. Arson destroys property. Sound effects accompany the depiction of a broken leg. The mysterious death of a foster child and manslaughter are mentioned. A character is accused of kidnapping and child molestation. Men get into a brawl. Police and Child Service workers chase a pair of runaways. Weapons, cars and armored vehicles are used in the manhunt. Reckless driving and car crashes result. A seriously ill man is mistaken for a corpse. Characters grieve over the deaths of loved ones. Bullying occurs.
Sexual Content: Sexual abuse of a minor is subtly implied as the cause of a young girl’s death. Some innocent remarks are misinterpreted as a confession of a boy being sexually abused by an older man.Infrequent potty humor is included.
Language: The script includes mild and moderate profanity, scatological slang, terms of deity name-calling and fat jokes. Two crude finger gestures are also shown, as well as a couple of words that sound like a strong sexual expletive.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters are seen smoking in several scenes.
Other: Characters scatter the ashes of a cremated loved one.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
Hunt for the Wilderpeople Parents' Guide
In what ways are both Heck and Ricky “strays”? How does Bella’s acceptance of each of them encourage feelings of self-worth? What eventually helps the man and boy see the good in each other that Bella was much quicker to observe?
Why is a desire for family such a universal yearning? How do feelings of abandonment affect the characters here? In what ways do their experiences help them fill that void? In what other ways might Heck and Ricky have found healing?
Why do Heck and Ricky run away from the accusations made against each of them, instead of facing them? What consequences might they have confronted if they had turned themselves in? What consequences do they meet because they don’t? What can you learn from their example?
News About "Hunt for the Wilderpeople"
The most recent home video release of Hunt for the Wilderpeople movie is September 27, 2016. Here are some details…
Home Video Notes: Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Release Date: 27 September 2016
Hunt for the Wilderpeople release to home video (DVD) with the following special features:
- Director’s Commentary with Director Taika Waititi and Actors Sam Neill & Julian Dennison
- Behind the Scenes: Hunt For Wilderpeople (Featurette)
- Blooper Reel