Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hunt for the Wilderpeople Adoption Movie Review

Ricky is a young teenager who has been abandoned by his mother. His behaviors have placed him at risk of going to a juvenile detention center, but his social worker brings him to one last foster home. Bella is confident that she will be able to help; she often helps people that other folks can’t seem to get along with. Her husband, Hec, is cantankerous and not really interested in Ricky. When Bella dies, Ricky’s social worker gives notice that she will be taking Ricky away from Hec. Ricky does not want to go back into the system, so he fakes his own death and runs off into the New Zealand bush. Hec easily finds him, but gets injured. Hec and Ricky are stuck in the bush, and their absence leads the authorities to believe that Hec has abducted Ricky rather than returning him to the system. Fearing for Ricky’s safety, the police and the social worker start a manhunt for the missing pair.


The Adoption Connection

Ricky explains that his mother “got rid of me when I was little,” and that he does not know who his dad was. Bella, Hec, and Ricky are a foster family. Ricky’s history includes a lot of troubling behaviors; he’s a teenager, too – not many foster homes are open to teenagers with behavioral issues. But Bella is confident that she’ll be able to help Ricky – and sure enough, she does. Even though Ricky tries to run away, Bella doesn’t overreact; she just finds him and brings him home. In time, Ricky is part of the family; they buy him a dog and give him the first birthday celebration he’s ever had. It’s very touching to see how Ricky thrives in the presence of a loving parent. When Bella dies, though, it’s apparent that Hec is not as invested in Ricky as Bella was. Hec says it plainly – Bella was the one who wanted Ricky in the home. Ricky believes that his next stop will be juvenile hall; rather than going there, he runs away. Hec finds him, but gets injured, leaving Hec and Ricky stranded in the dangerous New Zealand bush. To stay safe, they’ve got to stick together. They slowly bond. They come to learn that they are the subjects of a large-scale manhunt, but decide to stay on the run.

Eventually, they’re found, Ricky is taken into a foster home, and Hec serves some time in jail. After Hec’s release, Hec is welcomed into Ricky’s foster home, and he and Ricky spend more time together exploring the bush.

According to Hec, Bella became a foster parent because she didn’t have a family; she wanted to look after others that “no one else wanted.” Hec includes himself and Ricky in that category. Infertility has been a part of Hec’s and Bella’s story.

Strong Points

Ricky would be described by many as a “troubled youth.” Bella embraces him into her life, and he’s able to thrive. Many folks would be scared to take placement of Ricky, but he thrives with a strong, loving parent.

Although the system serves as an antagonist, it is good that the system devotes so much energy to ensure the safety of one child.

Hec and Ricky do develop a bond, and Ricky’s eventual foster parents see enough value in that to let their relationship continue.
Hec risks being captured in order to save the life of a park ranger.

Hec and Ricky eventually come to think of themselves as true family.

When Ricky believes that his mom didn’t want him, Hec assures him that she must have wanted and loved him. Hec adds, “You’re pretty likeable.”


The social worker who drops Ricky off with Bella and Hec doesn’t seem to fully investigate the family, and even makes light of the fact that she’s not going to examine the property. She also tells Ricky “there’s no one else who wants you.” She tells the foster family, “No returns – just kidding.”
Hec initially doesn’t seem to care about Ricky, and even tells Ricky that Bella – and not Hec – wanted Ricky at the home. He initially refuses to allow Ricky to call him “uncle,” and tells Ricky that all he wants from Ricky is to be left alone. Ricky and Hec tell each other “I hate you.” Hec also calls Ricky a “little bastard,” although he later retracts the insult. Although their relationship develops, this could be hard for some kids who fear – or who have experienced – rejection.

Some kids who’ve experienced (or worried about) disrupted placements might find it particularly hard that a loving foster parent’s death is immediately followed by the threat of losing the first stable home Ricky has ever had.

While traveling through the bush, Ricky and Hec encounter some hunters who incorrectly believe that Hec is molesting Ricky. Ricky later falsely accuses Hec of this.
Ricky holds up some hunters at gunpoint.

Ricky’s future foster father encounters Ricky, recognizes him as being on the run, but instead of ensuring his safety, poses for selfies with him.
Some characters slaughter wild pigs with knives; it could be upsetting to some younger viewers. 

When one of Hec’s and Ricky’s loyal dogs gets injured, Hec shoots it to put it out of its misery. This could be sad for some viewers.


Hunt for the Wilderpeople is charming. I found it somewhat reminiscent of Moonrise Kingdom. There are some scenes that could be scary or upsetting for young children, but it should be good for most kids and teens ages 12 and up, and their parents. If your kid has abandonment issues, issues with loss, fear of disrupted placement or if your kid has experienced molestation, it might be a good idea to screen it by yourself first.

Questions for Discussion

At what point did Hec become family to Ricky?

What made Bella such a good foster parent?

What do you think Ricky felt when he was placed with Hec and Bella?

Would you have taken placement of Ricky?

Why did Ricky believe that his mother didn’t want him? Is it possible that he’s wrong?

Do you like camping?

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