Structure: 5/5 | Entertainment: 4/5
Mix the charm of Wes Anderson with New Zealand’s own special brand of humor and you arrive at Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Brilliantly told by Taika Waititi, the film scores an impressive 100% on Rotten Tomatoes—always a sign that a strong solid
storyform exists at the center of it all.
Bounced from foster home to foster home, Main Character Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a “real bad egg” (
Main Character Throughline: Situation). Running away in the middle of the night won’t get him far, but it does exemplify his constant drive for freedom (
Main Character Approach: Do-er,
Main Character Resolve: Steadfast,
Main Character Problem: Uncontrolled). Ricky will do anything to stay out of juvie, even if it means going out in a blaze of glory (
Main Character Concern: Future).
Uncle Hec (Sam Neill) functions as
Influence Character, his bad attitude and explosive nature characterizes him as a man in need to serious anger management (
Influence Character Throughline: Fixed Attitude,
Influence Character Concern: Innermost Desires). Hec wants Ricky to leave him alone and responds negatively to everything the poor kids says (
Influence Character Problem: Oppose). Hec scoffs at Ricky’s statement that “I didn’t choose the skuxx life, the skuxx life chose me,” firmly believing Ricky to be anything but a gangsta. Later, in a rare intimate moment, Hec explains how Ricky is wrong about his mother and how she undoubtedly loved him (
Influence Character Symptom: Disbelief,
Influence Character Response: Faith).
Once Ricky burns Hec’s shed and enters the bush for places unknown, their
Relationship Story Throughline begins—a relationship that grows from tolerating a nuisance to close friends and intrepid explorers (
Relationship Story Issue: Obligation,
Relationship Story Concern: Changing One's Nature). Hec’s attempt to get Ricky to see the view as “majestical” epitomizes their relationship and brings them closer together (
Relationship Story Throughline: Manipulation,
Relationship Story Symptom: Reconsider,
Relationship Story Response: Consider).
The burning of the shed and the subsequent “abduction” of Ricky sparks a national manhunt for the trio. Led by self-proclaimed Terminator and social worker Paula (Rachel House), police and SWAT team “ninjas” scour the countryside (
Overall Story Throughline: Activity,
Overall Story Issue: Attitude). A series of encounters with paranoid hunters and a diabetic Ranger impedes Hec and Ricky’s escape, forcing them to disable the hunter’s rifles before “fast-walking” further into the bush (
Overall Story Symptom: Hinder). Capturing the two and bringing Hec to justice weighs heavily on everyone’s minds—everyone that is except for Psycho Sam, whose attempt to charge Ricky’s cellphone battery only brings the enemy in closer (
Overall Story Goal: Obtaining,
Overall Story Response: Help).
In the end Hec, refuses to put up with Ricky’s crazy antics. Ricky refuses to let his “uncle” surrender to the authorities and shoots him in the ass, bringing their escape to freedom to an end, and bringing an apparent end to their relationship (
Overall Story Problem: Oppose,
Story Outcome: Failure,
Relationship Story Problem: Oppose).
During the epilogue, we find out that Ricky is happily living with his new family but still feels like he is missing one thing (
Story Consequence: Becoming). Returning to visit Hec at an old folk’s home, Ricky asks the old man to join him on another adventure. Having to come realize that he misses the little guy (It was the best), Hec allows Ricky to call him uncle.
“We didn’t choose the skuxx life, the skuxx life chose us,” Hec says as the camera tracks past them and up and over the treetops—cementing his paradigm shift, and bringing meaning and purpose to a wonderful film (
Influence Character Resolve: Changed,
Influence Character Solution: Support,
Story Judgment: Good).