1999 Drama | Comedy | Family

There is a genre (at least it feels like there should be) of independent films that attempt to portray rural, small-town life, but they rarely capture any of its essential insularity. What makes Possums such a compelling and entertaining exception to the normally hackneyed depictions is the manner in which a slightly absurd narrative premise is so believably realized. A number of the usual characters and settings are present, ranging from whittling old-timers and an obnoxious mayor to the diner, hardware store, and football field. But first-time writer/director J. Max Burnett has taken a tired format and developed a whimsical sports fantasy that is fresh, charming, and ultimately very poignant. Mac Davis heads a splendid cast as Will Clark, the radio announcer for the hapless high school football team, the Nowata Possums. When the development-minded mayor pulls the plug on the team (a pseudo-Wal-Mart needs the stadium site), Clark, who owns the town hardware store and is the Possums' most passionate booster, decides to broadcast an imaginary season. Assisted by Jake, a young, part-time employee, his efforts begin inconspicuously but gradually evolve into a Cinderella trek to the state finals that captures the imagination of the town and the attention of the state's media. But reality rears its ugly head, and a climactic confrontation threatens the town's dreams. A playful air permeates this work, and its old-fashioned resonance makes it an effective fable and proof why the small town has an everlasting place in American dreams.