“Downsizing” Completely Botches a Terrific Concept

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“Downsizing” is directed by Alexander Payne and stars Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Kristen Wiig, and Hong Chau. The film is about a world where Earth is facing brutal problems with global warming and pollution, so a science comes out that allows people to shrink to very small sizes, where they can have a new, improved life, while also saving the environment in the process.

This looked like a very weird movie, but the premise certainly grabbed my attention, as did its trailer, which looked incredibly fun. Matt Damon is quite reliable, as is Payne behind the camera, so I came in hoping mostly for a fun movie, but also one that could make some commentary or satire on the world we live in.

The Good

Aside from the movie doing basically nothing that I was hoping for it to do, the opening act of the film is relatively solid. I loved how this concept of downsizing is introduced, and, while obviously strange, the purpose and capabilities of this technology are described in enough detail to get me on board. As the idea is more fully developed, I really enjoyed seeing the benefits and the reasoning for people going small, as well as the process of it all, and, even though I wish I saw the nosedive in quality coming, the start of this movie had me very excited.

Matt Damon gives a fine performance in the film, though he is never really given the chance to be anything but fine. Christoph Waltz was probably my favorite character in the movie, as his outlandish and weird character gave Waltz a chance to show some comedic chops and bring a somewhat interesting element to the movie. I also liked Hong Chau’s character and performance quite a bit, though I do think her accent may have been a bit much at times. Still, Chau’s turn as Ngoc Lan Tran is one of the few highlights in the back half of the movie, and she brought some of the only emotion in the entire movie.

Visually, there are some great moments where we truly see just how small these people become when they downsize, and I thought the CGI and camerawork were implemented terrifically in these moments.

The Bad

As you can probably tell, I did not like this movie. I came in with loads of hope and optimism, hoping that Alexander Payne can bring the directorial talent I know he has and create a smart satire that really explores this brand new world. Instead, Payne teases us with a world we barely freaking see, as we are stuck with a mopey Matt Damon for a large portion of the film. Sure, there are some twists and turns I didn’t expect, but they were never that strong to make me forgive such a wasted opportunity to make a fun film with a lot of commentaries.

Nearly immediately after we are introduced to this downsized world, the film hits the brakes for no damn reason, and it left me relatively bored for a solid portion of the movie, and even more confused and aggravated as to why the hell the film took such a detour in both tone and plot from what I originally wanted.

The concept of creating a world made strictly of people under a foot tall in order to save our environment leaves brilliant places for all the satire and humor in the world, but Payne decides to capitalize on almost none of it, leaving a movie that is boring and overly long, and nearly lacks any sort of real commentary that works. Whenever the movie does feel like it’s trying to say anything, it comes off as forced, and it is simply a shame how badly the movie feels like it drops the ball on a load of good ideas.

The film takes these weird breaks in time quite frequently, showing a few scenes then jumping a week, a year, or even a decade forward to get to the next scene and, especially after seeing how boring the movie becomes, I really think these lapses in time could have been avoided. The film should have focused on the concept of downsizing on the whole instead of sticking to one lame character, as this would create a fully realized world and a ton of opportunities for smart comedy.

Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, and Neil Patrick Harris are in this movie, and they are mostly solid, but the movie loves to create new characters that seem important but then never return to the storyline again within the movie. As I have stated over and over again, this movie becomes uninteresting quick, so these fun, zany personalities could have desperately helped a storyline that really needed a tune-up.

Finally, the end of this movie leaves no punch, it just kind of ends. After 135 minutes, most of them being very disappointing, this finale really should have done something to leave the audience on a high note, but it doesn’t, leaving me wondering how the hell such a good idea with such a good director ended up coming together so terribly.

Conclusion

“Downsizing” is one of the most disappointing movies of 2017. Sure, it has all the ideas in the world, and, for the first act, those ideas get the movie to a pretty solid start. But, these good concepts eventually result in a boring storyline with almost none of the imagination the movie started with, as well as a lack of intrigue, a lack of world-building, and a lack of anything in terms of entertainment or dramatic heft. I may be a little harsh on this film, but that is only because of how much hope I had coming in, and the fact that “Downsizing” failed on so many levels hurts even more considering how amazing it could, and should, have been.

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Get tickets and showtimes for “Downsizing” here

What did you think of “Downsizing”? Comment below with your thoughts.


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