Pottersville

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Pottersville Movie Poster Image
Dull, nonsensical holiday comedy has cursing, drinking.
  • PG-13
  • 2017
  • 84 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Goodness will eventually be recognized. "Hope isn't always the most realistic thing, but it tends to make the world a better place."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Maynard is a kind, generous man whose selfish wife walks all over him. An American fraudster pretends to be an Australian Bigfoot hunter.
 

Violence

A man gets shot with a tranquilizer gun. A self-described Sasquatch expert reports that a dead deer that probably broke its leg stepping in a hole was really a victim of a Bigfoot attack. All violence is played for comedy.

Sex

A man and woman kiss. People dress in animal costumes and dance and rub against each other. Someone observes this and assumes incorrectly that they're having sex. When the supposed monster hunter lets out a supposed Bigfoot mating call, a skeptic asks if he wants to "hump" the creature. Someone asks, "If a snake had ears, would you screw it?"
 

Language

"S--t," "hell," "damn," "ass," "screw," "crap," "poop," and "scat."  

Consumerism

The townspeople grow excited when a camera crew turns its attentions on their sleepy town. Some exploit the outside interest in Bigfoot, selling souvenirs from Maynard's store for profit, but not offering to share those profits with Maynard.

 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A local makes moonshine and often takes slugs from a flask he carries. Maynard gets extremely drunk.
 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pottersville takes the idea that an ordinary person can have an impact on the lives of others from another Christmas story, It's a Wonderful Life. Here, a kind, unassuming storekeeper is at the heart of a story about a dying mill town that rallies from its depression when someone mistakenly believes that Bigfoot is running around the local woods. This attracts an exploitive camera crew and money-spending tourists and injects life into the local economy. Language includes "s--t," "hell," and "damn," "ass." Sex is mentioned, but in the context of bored adults dressing in fuzzy animal costumes and rather oddly rubbing against each other playfully. When the supposed monster hunter lets out a supposed Bigfoot mating call, a skeptic asks if he wants to "hump" the creature. Someone asks, "If a snake had ears, would you screw it?" A man gets drunk over his crumbling marriage.

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What's the story?

POTTERSVILLE is an economically-strapped town, declining since its biggest employer, the mill, closed and locals have lost their jobs and their dignity. Maynard (Michael Shannon) still runs the general store as his family has done for generations. He keeps an accounting ledger, and extends credit without question or judgment to many residents struggling to feed their families. Closing the shop early one day, he goes home early to surprise his wife, Connie (Christina Hendricks), with a romantic dinner. He finds her in the bedroom dressed as a large bunny, cavorting with Jack, the town's sheriff (Ron Perlman), who is dressed as a wolf (although Maynard insists as a running joke that Jack looks more like a squirrel). The costumed pair explain that their secret club, The Furries, just dress up and rub, no sex allowed, but Maynard goes off to sulk and get drunk. In that condition, he returns to his store and dons a gorilla suit, then for no good reason heads for the woods. In the morning, he awakens on the floor of his store, discovering that his inebriated wanderings as a gorilla were reported the night before by neighbors to the police as Bigfoot sightings. This arouses the interest of the whole town and a reality TV show starring a fraudulent Aussie Sasquatch "expert." Brock (Thomas Lennon) is really American but he hopes to ride the Squatch hunt into a network show. He teams up with the sheriff and the local hunter and woodsman, Bart (Ian McShane), who vows to catch Bigfoot. Armed with guns, both tranquilizer and bullet varieties, and a large tent, the three head into the night to catch the non-existent creature. Maynard has tried to tell the sheriff about his drunken outing but the sheriff is too busy, thrusting the plot ever forward into unlikely situations. Maynard-as-Bigfoot feels obligated to continue the charade for the sake of the town's well-being and gets tranquilized and exposed. He's immediately ostracized for the deception until the townspeople realize how kind and decent he has always been to them.

Is it any good?

This is a strained comedy featuring a whimsical plot that is unaccompanied by any supportive whimsical writing or acting. Formula rules over creativity. Maynard's unassuming but supportive employee, played by Judy Greer, is a stock character -- the "good woman" -- no more than a device to bring the movie around to its goal of getting Maynard what he deserves. Much of the comedy depends on lame ribbing of a cowardly TV "monster hunter" who thinks more about hair and makeup than the content of his show. Shannon is likable enough as a doormat to his oblivious and selfish wife, but it's utterly unfathomable that anyone would continue to run around at night in the woods dressed as Bigfoot while people with guns were also running around out there looking to shoot him.

The movie certainly has to overcome that unreality and since it fails to do so, everything that follows becomes equally difficult to swallow, or even sit through. At one point, Maynard types a letter before he goes off for his last appearance as Bigfoot, but we never find out what he wrote. The ending returns to the believable. The town recognizes the way it has taken dear, sweet, generous Maynard for granted, realizing how much more he's given them than the presence of a mythical creature ever could.
 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie veers from its original point, which seems to be that Maynard is a really nice guy. Why do you think he does what he does?

  • Maynard's wife is painted as a cartoonish and selfish person. Do you believe that character seems realistic or do you think her extreme character was created just to bolster the comedy?

  • Does the effort to make this story funny seem strained? What about this movie works as a comedy and what doesn't? Would it have been better as a drama?

Movie details

For kids who love the holidays

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