Pottersville is a 2017 Christmas comedy about a beloved local businessman who is mistaken for the legendary Bigfoot during an inebriated romp through town in a makeshift gorilla costume.
Christmas movies are the stuff of standards. They get churned out year-by-year following a set of very specific rules, beit a romance, or a family drama, or a lone cop in LA taking down terrorists in a skyscraper. Most have become so derivative they seem to strive for banality. Perhaps that’s why Seth Henrikson‘s latest holiday film Pottersville works hard to be anything but standard, veering so far away from expectations, it careens into the bizarre. In the process, it’s become one of the weirdest Christmas movies ever made. It’s just too bad it can’t embrace that strangesness with any joy or whimsy.
Maynard Greiger (Michael Shannon) is the owner of a quaint general store in the middle of a quaint little town called Pottersville, a pastoral New England-ish type town that is slowly imploding. Most of the shops and businesses are closed. During the holiday season, after getting a few elk steaks from a local eccentric named Bart (Ian McShane), he heads home early to surprise his wife Connie (Christina Hendricks), and if you’ve seen any movie in your life, you know the surprise is actually on him. She’s a ‘furry‘, dressed as a rabbit and playing around with a wolf, or rather the Sheriff (Ron Perlman). This causes Maynard to get drunk, the first time since his wedding night. He then get dressed in a hunter’s Ghillie suit and a gorilla mask, his own contribution to the furry trade, and takes to the streets in a haze. When he wakes up, the whole town is abuzz with talk of a Bigfoot terrorizing the neighborhood. It gets big city coverage and suddenly Pottersville is back on the map.
It’s hard to rationalize what is happening in Pottersville. Despite the sort of complexities the plot seems to wriggle around, it’s actually a paper thin story that is more akin to a late night cable Christmas TV movie. Being a holiday film, it doesn’t really need to be anything else of course, but it’s just so uninteresting, with no characters that really take to their potential. It tries to be looney, but unfortunately, even with its premise and astonishing cast, has nearly no laughs, which is too bad because there is a lot here that should have been very funny.
It’s not that the cast doesn’t try. Shannon plays it deadpan and is orbited by zanies, the most successful of which is Thomas Lennon as Brock Masterson, an Australian television reality show host chasing ‘monsters’ around the globe. There’s attempts here to be topical and even pop cultural, with, for example, one scene that apes the now 42 years old Jaws and a shot at Christian Bale‘s near ten-year-old on-set rant, neither of which strike right. Honestly, it’s a little awkward to watch.
Shannon, who co-produced the film, is really the wrong choice for this, the part more suited to a comedian rather than an actor known for his Oscar-nominated dramatic roles. I can’t help but imagine what the likes of Will Ferrell, Russell Brand, or even Bill Murray could have done with this. You can see glimpses of what this is supposed to be, a light Christmas feel-good charmer, but it’s too far off target, barely qualifying as a holiday movie at all. In the right frame of mind, and copious amounts of eggnog, perhaps there are some who might get something from this, but otherwise, there are plenty other ‘bad’ Christmas movies better than this.
Director(s): Seth Henrikson
Actor(s): Christina Hendricks, Michael Shannon, Judy Greer