The Sasquatch Gang

2007, Movie, PG-13, 90 mins


Writer-director Tim Skousen's goofy, shaggy portrait of small-town life shares key creative personnel with NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (2004), including producer Jeremy Coon, art department heads Cory Lorenzen and Jenni Nelson, cinematographer Munn Powell, and Skousen himself, so it should come as no surprise that it relies heavily on the DYNAMITE playbook. Napoleon himself, Jon Heder, even drops in for a fleeting cameo as a snippy laser-tag employee,

Taking a structural cue from PULP FICTION (1994), THE SASQUATCH GANG retells the tale of a possible bigfoot sighting from multiple points of view, doubling back to retell the same events from the perspectives of different characters. It begins on a hot, lazy, Oregon summer day, as geek pals Gavin Gore (Jeremy Sumpter), Hobie Plumber (Hubbel Palmer) and Maynard Keyes (Rob Pinkston) stage one of their regular medieval-fantasy sword fights in Gavin's yard, complete with New Agey accompaniment via a front-porch boom box. Unemployed, mullet-haired neighbor Zerk (Justin Long) and his perpetually shirtless stoner sidekick, Shirts (Joey Kern), are affronted by this blatant display of nerdiness, and belligerent Zerk takes the opportunity to humiliate the portly Hobie. The next morning, Gavin and Co., joined by video-store clerk Sophie (Addie Land), go looking for arrowheads in the nearby woods and instead discover a set of oversize footprints and a huge lump of dung: Could they have found evidence that Sasquatch is more than a legend? Word of their discovery spreads quickly and the inevitable comic complications soon involve half-witted Officer Ed Chillcut (Jon Gries), local bully Shane (Michael Mitchell) and his glowering sidekicks (Ray Santiago, Jeff D'Agostino), repo man Ernie Dalrymple (Stephen Tobolowsky), and, ultimately, legend-in-his-own-mind Dr. Artemis Snodgrass (Carl Weathers), a TV cryptozoologist.

Skousen's low-budget lark is a thing of small virtues, chief among them Long and Kern's live-action Beavis and Butthead routine, the comic-book-style introductions to each version of the tale — a pitch-perfect nod to the pulp fictions that shape the characters' inner lives — and Sumpter and Land's performances as Gavin and Sophie; their awkward, fumbling romance has a genuine sweetness that transcends the script's willful eccentricity. The film's original title — THE SASQUATCH DUMPLING GANG — beautifully encapsulates the film's sensibility, a bizarre mix of reverse cool and childishness. It combines a juvenile crap joke — Hobie calls turds "dumplings" — and a convoluted allusion to the stupendously unhip, live-action Disney comedy THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG (1975), in which three kids discover a huge lump of gold, triggering comic complications. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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