The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Rodents of Unusual Size

The documentary Rodents of Unusual Size is not always easy to watch, but it is always fascinating. Directors Quinn Costello, Chris Metzler, and Jeff Springer take us to the state of Louisiana, where creatures known as nutria create an ongoing environmental problem because they destroy vegetation and erode coastlines. Nutria are essentially giant rats with huge orange teeth that can weigh up to twenty pounds. The movie focuses on various ways the locals deal with the problem.

Narrator Wendell Pierce kicks things off with an overview of how nutria were brought to America by an industrious businessman who sought to create a booming fur trade. It worked for a while, but when fur became politically incorrect decades later, they were let go, thus opening the door to a reign of destruction that continues to this day.

From there, Rodents of Unusual Size focuses on nutria hunters like Thomas Gonzalez who go out and kill the creatures, then take advantage of a government-sponsored program that pays five dollars per tail. It's a way of incentivizing the public to help solve the problem. Gonzalez and others make a living this way. Scenes showing the nutria being shot and having their corpses flung around might turn the stomachs of sensitive viewers, although the documentary makes it quite clear that there's an ecological benefit to ridding Louisiana of them.

Others take a more sanguine approach to the issue. One woman uses nutria fur in a fashion line; she says that political correctness has swung around the other way, making the sustainability factor of nutria fur desirable to young buyers. There's another man who keeps a nutria as a pet, a sports team that made one its official mascot, and a chef who makes culinary treats out of nutria meat.

Rodents of Unusual Size provides a lot of information about nutria and why they pose such a threat to the area. That alone makes it worthwhile viewing. What makes it truly special, though, is that it's really a film about coping. Everyone we meet has their own way of dealing with the nutria. Some want to help solve the problem, others want to find a way to accept it. All of them have had their lives impacted by nutria. The psychological portrait of how people face adversity is riveting.

You might not want to eat while watching Rodents of Unusual Size, but you should definitely seek it out.

( 1/2 out of four)

Rodents of Unusual Size is unrated, but contains graphic scenes of nutria being killed and skinned. The running time is 1 hour and 11 minutes.

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