Skux is Kiwi slang for ‘cool, spunky, gangster and awesome’, well at least according to Ricky Baker played by the youthful actor Julian Dennison, who features in the NZ hit movie, The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, written and directed by Takka Waititi based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump.
Ricky Baker is a hip hop fun loving foster child with a partiality for writing a Haiku, a Japanese poem of a few lines, originally written on a theme to express the underpinning spirit in life.
Shunted from foster home to foster home after being abandoned by the mother he knows nothing about, Ricky is an overweight teenager with a hankering for adventure and a simple understanding of what normal life would be like. He’s never had one of his own to date
When he’s left in the care of an odd couple who live on a remote property in the mountains and valleys of the glorious north island of New Zealand by a truly off child welfare case officer Paula, aka Rachel House and her side kick police Officer Andy, aka Oscar Kightley who has just a few pegs loose, Ricky’s entirely out of his city comfort zone.
He has led a pretty crappy life to date, at least until he meets Bella, who turns out to be all around great girl, superbly but all too briefly realised by NZ actor Rima Te Wiata.
Bella was a foster child herself and has always wanted to give a kid with problems a break, especially one who has set fire to mailboxes and has been incarcerated for drawing lewd graffiti, endeavouring to draw attention to the loneliness and the sadness of his plight.
She understands only too well what its like to be alone and giving him a dog as a present and placing a hot water bottle in his bed proves it’s the little things that count. When he is going to run away she offers to help.
Then there is her husband an illiterate backwoodsman loner, who is all set to finally become Ricky’s very hep grouch ‘Uncle Hec’, played cantankerously by veteran actor and all around great guy Sam Neill.
However in the meantime he has to earn his affectionate ‘Uncle’ title.
Hec teams up with his new teen buddy to go on the run, well a fast walk really following an ever-expanding chain of misunderstandings with welfare’s crazy Paula after Bella suddenly dies, not realising that he’s the one who is really going to learn all the lessons about living life in our age.
Hec and Ricky sporting hunting rifles and with their two dogs Tupac and Zag by their sides, navigate themselves through some of the most spectacular forested country scenery on the north island of New Zealand, where they live off the land, fight off wild boar and steal the odd supplies found in a wilderness hut or two.
The Hunt for the Wilderpeople blends humour, drama and pathos, that inner universe where we remain subject to the mystery of our positive and negative irrational feelings as we celebrate man’s heroic qualities in harmonious proportion, in an endearing mix.
This is no ordinary film, it’s very quirky, quite ridiculous, really lots of fun and at times thought provoking, although only for a moment. Levity is at its essence.
There are also just enough local references to ensure NZ’s Aussie cousins across the water can’t claim this movie as their own.
Add into the equation that unique NZ accent and Ricky getting some very funny facts wrong, then the smile on your face will only just become wider as the adventure progresses.
Even the minor characters are all stars with the film’s director getting in on the act with a delicious cameo as a mad minister in a funeral scene.
Irresistibly funny, Ricky urges his Uncle along, caught up as he is in the extreme fantasy of it all. While telling a few ‘porkies’ along the way, he unwittingly escalates the trouble they are in.
Every time they find a hut to shelter in it tends to be also sheltering others hilariously intent on impending the travellers on their journey for monetary reward, or looking as if they are dead.
Saving a diabetic ranger’s life is all in a day’s work for the pair who learn to rely on each other.
Ricky’s encounter with a girl for the first time is very special. She comes to his rescue riding a valiant steed, a bit of a twist on an old tale.
When he and his Uncle meet up with the hilarious hermit crazy Psycho Sam (Rhys Darby), the sight of a grouchy Sam Neill sitting with a colander on his head to ward off evil spirits is worth the price of the ticket!
It’s also a credit to his fine acting skills that he carries it off with such great aplomb.
New Zealand itself has never looked so beautiful; it doesn’t need an orchestral fanfare, just has to be itself, one of the most picturesque perhaps even sublime beauty spots on earth.
When Ricky and Hec arrive on the top of the world where Bella has told him she would eventually want to lie, scattering her ashes is poignant and made possible only because Ricky has thoughtfully brought them along.
Must say I loved this movie as much as I love New Zealand, a truly wonderful destination, and even with an over the top performance or two it is both wacky and wonderful at the same time.
There should be an entirely deserving onset of north island tourism like never before!
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
Watch the Trailer