Percy vs Goliath
By Tara McNamara,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Drama about farmer's battle against GMO reaps confusion.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Doing the right thing will yield results, even if it's not what you were working toward. Clear themes of perseverance, resilience, and overcoming insurmountable odds.
Positive Role Models
Percy Schmeiser bravely stands up for farmers' rights in the face of great legal odds and harsh financial consequences. He acts with integrity and humility. He works with an activist publicist, his wife, and his local lawyer; they demonstrate teamwork.
Violence & Scariness
Percy pumps a shotgun at trespassers. It's revealed that Big Agra's business practices led to hundreds of thousands of farmer deaths by suicide.
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Mild language includes "ass," "damn," and "hell."
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Products & Purchases
Agricultural corporation Monsanto plays a prominent role, but not in a promotional way.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A hospital patient smokes (in the background).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Percy vs Goliath is about real-life Canadian farming rights advocate Percy Schmeiser (Christopher Walken), who rose to prominence by defending his farming practices against the legal claims of giant agricultural corporation Monsanto. While there's almost no iffy content (a farmer pulls a gun on trespassers, a background character smokes, and someone describes a pie as "damn good"), the story has complexities about patent law and farming that may be too confusing for children to follow. To fully appreciate the story, viewers should already have an understanding, if not a viewpoint, about genetically modified food and its greater impact. It's also revealed that Big Agra's business practices led to hundreds of thousands of farmer deaths by suicide.
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Percy vs Goliath
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Percy Vs Goliath – By My Word I Stand
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What's the Story?
In PERCY VS GOLIATH, powerful agricultural corporation Monsanto accuses Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser (Christopher Walken) of stealing their patented genetically modified seeds -- and demands ownership of his canola crops. Proud of the seeds he cultivates annually from his own yield, Percy fights the agrochemical giant in court, creating a precedent-setting case with an outcome that will have global implications.
Is It Any Good?
In trying to stay out of the weedy details of patent law, farming practices, and biodiversity, director Clark Johnson only creates more confusion in telling Schmeiser's story. As a viewer, it's baffling: Why would a corporation sue potential customers and risk turning off other potential customers? Even more baffling is why courts would agree that Monsanto owned the rights to a crop if seeds were accidentally cross-pollinated through the wind. Writers Garfield Lindsay Miller and Hilary Pryor fail to make clear that Monsanto's "marketing practice" was to blackmail farmers, knowing that their genetically modified product would contaminate crops at neighboring farms, at which point the pesticide-resistant "gene" would overpower the naturally grown yield. Monsanto would make an outrageous financial claim with the threat of legal action, and farmers without the resources to fight would settle by contracting to buy the company's seeds in the future and pay a licensing fee.
The scenes in Percy vs Goliath are choppy, with no time given to help viewers truly understand who Schmeiser and his wife were as people and their role in the community beyond making pies for a local fair. The supporting characters, an activist publicist and a small-town trial lawyer, are one-dimensional despite seasoned actors Christina Ricci and Zach Braff giving the parts their all. And it's hard to dismiss the nagging question of why a Saskatchewan farmer has a New York accent (you can take Walken out of New York, but you can't take New York out of Walken). Still, there's much to take away from this drama, including the far-reaching results of standing up for yourself. And for those interested in how we keep nature natural in an age of biotechnology, the movie provides a jumping-off point to inspire young viewers to ask key questions. Schmeiser definitely earned his spot as an icon for farmers' rights, but Percy vs Goliath shares only a grain of his phenomenal story.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the courage it takes for an individual to take on a corporate giant. What advantages do wealthy people and large organizations have over small businesses when it comes to the legal system?
Do you consider Percy a role model? How does he demonstrate humility and integrity, and why are those important character strengths?
Why did the People for Environmental Protection see Percy's court battle with Monsanto as beneficial for their cause, which wasn't the same issue as Percy's? How did creative teamwork and perseverance lead to a positive outcome? Why was Percy's court defeat still a triumph?
What do you think about the idea of having a patent on something living? What could it mean to the world if the global food production chain becomes reliant on a few multinational corporations?
- In theaters: April 30, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: April 30, 2021
- Cast: Christopher Walken, Christina Ricci, Zach Braff
- Director: Clark Johnson
- Inclusion Information: Black directors
- Studio: Saban Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Activism, History, Science and Nature
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some thematic elements
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
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