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Rodents of Unusual Size (2017) – Movie Review

Rodents of Unusual Size movie poster

Produced & Directed by Quinn Costello, Jeff Metzler & Jeff Springer
Narrated by Wendell Pierce

So I’m going to admit something to you. If you’ve been hanging around this site for any length of time, though, it’s not exactly a shock revelation. I have a fondness for When Animals Attack films. I especially enjoy the When Giant Animals Attack sub-genre. If a week goes by where I can’t make a Food of the Gods reference, I feel like something’s spiritually wrong. Night of the Lepus is a staple of annual Halloween viewing. So when I heard there was a film about giant rodents eating Louisiana, I expected it to be ATOMIC giant rodents or stop-motion giant rodents or…something. But it was a documentary. Oh yes.

Enter…the nutria. I know it sounds like I’m about to launch into a sales pitch for a new smoothie diet mix, but no…nutria are basically what would happen if naked mole rats got sick and tired of being picked on, so they overdosed on Rogaine and steroids. These things are as big as beavers and have orange teeth. See? Orange teeth. That’s weird. They should be atomic, glowing orange teeth but no, it’s something apparently normal having to do with the enamel.

I won’t rehash the story of how the nutria came to Louisiana, because that’s part of the docu Rodents of Unusual Size. And the animated sequence towards the beginning in which Wendell Pierce (Treme, Jack Ryan) tells you the story does a much better job than I could. Suffice it to say the nutria were brought in with the best of intentions, they got loose, they were fruitful and multiplied, and now they eat vegetation which helps hold the ground together. And with the ground compromised, it has a tendency to just…wash away.

The docu gives us a focus we return to often with Thomas Gonzales, an elder stateman of the Louisiana wetlands who isn’t going anywhere, regardless of hurricanes, nutria, grey aliens, heat death of the universe…whatever. If there’s a zombie apocalypse, he’s going to be just fine, I’m betting. We start off with people boating around and shooting nutria, because there’s millions of the damn things and somebody needs to. There’s a new bounty system in place to encourage the wholesale slaughter of the buggers. And seriously, these guys are so out of control, not even Brian May would say a damn thing about this cull.

Thomas Gonzales from Rodents of Unusual Size
This…is Thomas Gonzales. Fast forward to the end of the world and you will find Keith Richards, Betty White…and him.

I must say: for a while there, at the beginning, I thought we were being presented with a marathon of a pilot for a TV show–Nutria Hunters–or something. But I’m familiar with co-producers/co-directors Metzler and Springer (from their work on the stellar Everyday Sunshine docu), so I knew something else had to be in store. And it is.

The story turns out not to be just about the nutria and how they need Marjoe Gortner to come in and fight them, but how people adapt to even seemingly insane scenarios like “Giant rats are going to eat the land out from under you.” Some, like Gonzales, just do their thing and I wouldn’t dream of getting in his way. Some use the nutria to bring back the fur trade. Some feed them and are nice to them because they’re rich and if their land goes they’ll just buy some more. (Methinks they have issues.) Some make them sports mascots–so, yeah, people cope in all kinds of weird ways. And so this odd relationship between the people and an insatiable army of rodents becomes the focus, which makes the entire thing fascinating. Odd as hell, just like humanity is, but fascinating, just like humanity is.

Recommended. Does in seventy minutes what a History Channel docu couldn’t do in seven hundred. Double feature it with Willard (1971) for extra points. You can find it available to stream on Amazon. Check out the official site here.

Rodents of Unusual Size: The Filmmakers
The trio of filmmakers who traipsed into the swamps to seek out giant rodents. Yeah. They obviously haven’t seen enough horror movies.