Hunt for the Wilderpeople
RELEASE DATE: 26 May 2016
RATING: PG for mild themes & coarse language
The Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a wry New Zealand adventure that well reflects the laconic sense of humour thriving on both sides of the Tasman ‘ditch’. This story about a troubled boy and a misfit old man discovering a bond that withstands society’s worst criticisms provides a perfect illustration of the unity that oddball Christians also enjoy.
The Hunt for the Wilderpeople is based on the novel Wild Pork and Watercress by best-selling New Zealand author Barry Crump. His story concerns overweight Maori boy Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), who has been shunted between foster homes before arriving on the farm of Bella Faulkner (Rema Ti Wiata). Ricky is destined for juvenile detention if he can’t make this last placement work. However, Bella and her husband Hector (Sam Neill) are also ‘people without people’ and they set about creating a family where Ricky can really belong. When social services threaten to move Ricky on, he and the curmudgeon Hector are forced to discover how strong their new ties will be. The pair heads bush and the chase that follows is laugh-out-loud funny. Yet it’s also endearing as Ricky and Uncle Hector forge a new definition of family – the Wilderpeople.
We don’t build on what others think of us, but on what someone has done FOR US.
Writer/director Taika Waititi has done a brilliant job crafting a story that will draw guffaws from kids and parents alike. Waititi also does a wince-worthy cameo as a minister of religion, whose funeral service well encapsulates the sort of nonsense non-Christians have heard from preachers who’ve left the Bible behind: ‘So let’s pray that Jesus will make it a bit easier to get through those doors and get to [his] bounty of delicious confectionery.’
It’s a pity the only presentation of Christianity is a negative one, because the very essence of family the film offers up is one that’s been at the heart of God’s community for 2000 years.
Uncle Hector has spent time in jail for manslaughter, and authorities wonder whether his crimes now extend to child abuse. Ricky’s also characterised unfairly by his past.
Yet the basis for their family rests on an acceptance of each other that transcends society’s standards of success. Like the apostle Paul’s description of the early church, their weaknesses make room for something much, much stronger:
‘Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.’ (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)
The Hunt for the Wilderpeople has a few words that might be unsuitable for young ears, but it presents a picture of family that Christian parents will have no trouble getting behind. We don’t build on what others think of us, but on what someone has done for us. In this case our weaknesses become all the more valuable, because they serve to display the love and strength we find in God and each other.
In the case of the Wilderpeople, this is a desire to put family before everything else. In the case of the church, it’s the Holy Spirit who takes that same motivation and transforms it into an eternal security. Jesus persists in offering himself as a foundation for a family that will exceed even Barry Crump’s ‘majestical’ glories of the New Zealand bush.
This review comes from The Lutheran June 2016. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.