What hath Napoleon Dynamite wrought? There is a new genre in town, folks, comedies about misfit nerdy people who find love in small towns and go up against the kind of bullies you can only wish your children had to deal with. Eagle v. Shark dealt with a kind of darker aspect of the geek chic qualities forwarded by Napoleon Dynamite, presenting what happens to these types of high school kids when they graduate and start becoming more sexually active. The Sasquatch Gang tosses us right back into Napoleon’s world except that the language, while still PG-rated, becomes a little coarser. Of course, you have to expect to hear the word “turd” in a movie about four misfits who literally fall face first into Bigfoot droppings. In fact, the original title of this movie was The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang.
To put it frankly: this movie is laugh out loud hilarious. Whether your enjoyment of it will depend upon how you reacted to Napoleon Dynamite is the kind of thing that you will find in an IMDB review, not here. Take each movie on its own terms and resist the comparison to others and you just might discover some gems. The Sasquatch Gang cannot help but remind you of that earlier film, however, if only because Jon Gries, who played Napoleon’s Uncle Rico, appears in it and because there is a certain small cameo by someone you may be familiar with. Gosh! The overall ambience of The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang is one of gentle surreal humor of the kind of people that you know, but that you almost never find in Hollywood movies.
The structure of The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang is non-linear, presenting a few scenes from multiple perspectives. While there is the plot of the Bigfoot scat being discovered and bringing attention to the small town, that is just another example of Mr. Hitchcock’s MacGuffin. What is really at stake is the future direction of the main characters. A broad ensemble cast has varying levels of success. For instance, Jeremy Sumpter, whom you may have difficulty remembering as Peter Pan in the sometimes brilliant, sometimes lackluster live action film from a few years ago, is the weakest link. In a standard movie this could have presented a problem since he is the character the audience is asked to identify with most closely. Sumpter just doesn’t seem capable of understanding gawkiness and being a misfit; I would have loved to have seen Rupert Grint in this role.
As indicated, The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang is structured to present multiple perspectives to the same story; therefore several different storylines are taking place, converging in utter totality by the end. Which is also the beginning. You’ll see what I mean. One of those storylines involves two metalhead losers attempting to raise cash to ward off the repo man. The guy who plays Apple in those Apple versus PC computer, Justin Long, is pitch perfect as the quintessential driver of a Pontiac Trans-Am. Like every guy who ever drove a Trans-Am in high school, Long’s character is oblivious to reality, picks on those weaker than him, and misunderstands even the most basic concepts of decency. Not to mention his awful hairstyling choice. Even better is the funniest character in the movie, Shirts. Played to astonishingly perfect ironic perfection by Joey Kerns, Shirts has a quite distinctive vocal delivery style that makes every single line he says come out hilariously. You’ll find yourself rewinding to hear the words that your laughter drowned out.
Besides Jeremy Sumpter, the actual Sasquatch dumpling gang consists of two other boys and a girl. There is romance, but the real meat of the story is the jealousy and envy that erupts between Sumpter’s character and his best friend Hobie, played by Hubbel Palmer. Palmer is a big hulking bear of a guy and you’ve see this kind of nerdy geek dressed in a trench coat at school or at the mall or arcade. The other male gang member is played the little guy who plays Coconut Head on Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. The love interest is played by Addie Land who hits every note just right, seeming both tough and fragile. One of the funniest scenes in the movie is a replay of the moment when Hobie and this girl first meet in the video store in which she works. As Hobie recalls it in his diary, it is significantly different from reality, tailoring the recollection to meet his specific self-esteem issues. That the girl has wired her jaw shut in order to lose weight gives some indication as to her self-esteem.
The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang is a charming little movie that you can enjoy with the kids without fear of cringing over sexual situations or language. But don’t go thinking that it is simply a Disney movie without the Disney name. There are many downright surreal qualities to this movie. Keep an eye out, for instance, on dinner at the Shirts’ family house, when Justin Long’s character robs the video store, and the excuse that Sumpter’s character gave his mom when he was really out on a date.