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Laramie Movie Scope:
Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Dramedy of boy and man being pursued in New Zealand bush

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(2016) Social-services ("No child left behind") lady Paula (Rachel House), accompanied by Andy, a policeman, delivers 13-year-old Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), "a real bad egg" with a history of offenses and foster homes, to Bella Faulkner (Rima Te Wiata) and her husband Hector (Sam Neill). When Ricky gets back inside the car, Paula scolds him: "There's no one else who wants you."

Provided with his own bedroom, Ricky sneaks off into the night. In the morning, Bella finds him asleep not far from the house: "Have some breakfast, then you can run away." Taciturn Hec scoffs at the boy: "Leave me alone."

Out hunting in the bush with Bella, when she attacks a boar with her knife, killing it, Ricky faints at the sight of so much blood. He reads to Bella from the haiku he writes as therapy for his anger. For his birthday, a celebration he's not enjoyed before, Ricky gets a cake with candles and a dog, which he names Tupac. Bella dies unexpectedly.

In ten chapters and an epilogue, director/writer Taika Waititi's New Zealand adventure dramedy, based on Barry Crump's novel, Wild Pork and Watercress, with additional screenwriting contribution from Tearepa Kahi, brings together an unwanted fat boy ("carried away being an outlaw") and the gruff man he calls Uncle. A letter from child welfare, which Hec, hiding his illiteracy, directs Ricky to read aloud, informs them that Ricky will be collected within the week to be placed elsewhere.

"They can't do that," Ricky protests to Hec, who says they can and will. "But I live here now," the kid replies: "It's my home." Desperate for a solution to avoid being taken to juvenile detention - where "they don't care about kids like me" - Ricky says to 65-year-old Hec: "Why don't we just get you a new wife? There's plenty of ladies on the internet, I've heard."

Hec replies: "It was Bella that wanted you, not me." Ricky writes a suicide note, accidentally burns down Hec's barn, before hightailing with a rifle and Tupac into the bush. Soon lost, Ricky is found, though he and Hec express mutual hatred for each other.

In an attempted altercation with the kid's teasing him for not being able to read, Hec trips, fracturing his foot, forcing the pair to make camp for a few weeks to let the injury heal. Inside a ranger hut, Ricky reads a poster with their photographs and description (kidnaping suspected): "Police begin manhunt." They're criminals and famous.

Three hunters who enter the hut, recognizing the wanted man and boy, misunderstand Ricky's explanation of what he and Uncle Hec have been doing on holiday. On the run with the authorities and media believing a pervert is on the loose, Hec observes a rare bird, one he identifies as having supposedly gone extinct. No way to prove it and make themselves famous.

Inside another ranger hut, they discover a critically ill ranger. While Hec remains in the hut, Ricky seeks help, coming upon a girl on a horse. In her home, she feeds Ricky sausages and sings him a song accompanying herself on guitar; her dad takes a selfie with the infamous young Baker.

Separated from Hec, Ricky remembers what his uncle recommended doing in the bush: find water, seek higher ground, and avoid going naked. Four months later, winter in the wilderness, a reward for their capture, an encounter with two boars - Hec's dog Zag badly gored - Ricky hands Hec the box with Bella's ashes to scatter into a waterfall.

After Hec quips to Ricky that the authorities "couldn't find a clown in the circus," they make acquaintance with Bushman, aka Psycho Sam (Rhys Darby), who gives them shelter in his abode while insisting they wear pans on their heads to avoid detection by the government.

In the end, attempting to escape, they're chased in a pickup truck by military vehicles, cops, and choppers. Made an offer - in exchange for his cooperation of reporting Hector Faulkner as a child molester, Paula gives her assurance of his being placed in a foster home, not detention - Ricky vacillates before choosing.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2017 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)