By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a wonderful activity for an autumn afternoon or evening. Unlike a hunt for its namesake, the wildebeest, which would lead you on a hot and sweaty chase through the open plains and woodland of the African Serengeti and perhaps leave you with a nasty gore from a tangle with the wildebeest’s sharp horn, this hunt will take you only to a cinema and leave you with tears of laughter and a soft spot in your heart.
This 2016 movie is the story of a boy who was bounced from foster home to foster home. It is so heart-touching that the organization NPH (Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos) Our Little Brothers, which provides homes and comprehensive care for orphans in Mexico and other countries, launched the film in an April pre-opening fundraiser. We’re sure that after watching the plight, flight and restoration of Ricky Baker, played to perfection by the young actor Julian Dennison, NPH donors opened their pocketbooks and enriched the lives of the many children who are supported by this organization in several states.
Although the characters experience plenty of life’s low blows, the film is not in any way discouraging. The antics of Ricky are remarkably funny as he tries to adjust to being literally dropped from his life of petty juvenile delinquency in the city to the realities of New Zealand rural life. Also featured are hilarious interactions between Ricky and his curmudgeon foster uncle, Hec, as they both try to figure out their serendipitous relationship and survive the misfortunes that are dealt them. Hec, played by the incomparable Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, The Piano), begins the film as a two-dimensional grumpy old man and quickly morphs into a complex, multi-layered memorable, empathetic individual. And the rest of the cast brilliantly provides a range of characters from tragic to comedic.
The New Zealand setting provides scenery that is a cinematographer’s and audience’s dream. Taika Waititi, who wrote the screenplay and directed the film, is surely in line for one or two Academy Award nominations. In fact we are going to predict, months before the nominations, that “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” will receive nominations in multiple categories.
When the film arrives at a cinema near you, we suggest seeing it on the big screen and not waiting for it to appear on Netflix. And if you are moved by the dedicated (or perhaps even over-enthusiastic) services provided to the boy in this story, NPH and other youth-serving organizations will appreciate your donation.