Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is viewed as a troublemaker and juvenile delinquent by the child welfare worker, Paula (Rachel House), who has toxic feelings about him. With the assistance of a police officer (Oscar Kightley), she delivers him to his new foster home with farmers Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill). The preteen boy, who is used to city life, immediately wants to flee the remote place, despite the fact that he is receptive to Bella's kindness and affection. He's finally ready to settle in when Bella throws him a surprise birthday celebration capped off with the gift of his very own dog, which he names Tupac after the late, great rapper.
Dressed like a rapper and coming across with a penchant for criminal heroes, Ricky is shocked when Bella dies of a heart attack. Suddenly this 12 year old finds himself alone with Hec, the outdoorsman who has shown no interest in him at all. Ricky runs away and a manhunt begins for him. Hec joins him in the wilderness and for months they elude the local authorities and the crusading child welfare officer.
This feisty New Zealand film was directed by Taika Waititi and is based on Barry Crump's 1986 novel Wild Pork and Watercress. Structured as a series of brief chapters, Hunt For Wilderpeople revolves around the changes that take place in the two lead characters as they bond together in order to maintain their independent lifestyle. The cranky loner Hec teaches the boy the art of surviving in the bush, and Ricky enchants him with his love of reading and his delight in writing haiku.
The veteran actor Sam Neill and the young Julian Dennison work wonders with their depictions of Hec and Ricky. They completely convince us that these two can become a family after their walk on the wild side.