Downsizing Comes Up Short

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Downsizing Home Video Release

MATT DAMON (JASON BOURNE) stars in this ALEXANDER PAYNE vehicle about a world where the capability of shrinking living beings is made a reality.

Being able to become five inches high, while irreversible, comes with many advantages, which fall into the categories of ecology and economy. Requiring less to sustain yourself scales what might be a meager savings for a full-size individual into a fortune for a miniaturized one, allowing for a retirement to leisure much earlier. Likewise, the less one uses, the less waste produced, so it's a win-win.

Payne does a wonderful job exploring the downsides of the technology as well -- particularly with political dissidents being shrunk against their will, and the challenges to illegal immigration if refugees can simply be shipped overseas by Federal Express.

Damon portrays Paul Safranek, a good man who simply doesn't make progress with his life in the ways he would like. He lives in a cramped house with his wife Audrey (KRISTEN WIIG, GHOSTBUSTERS), and sees their plans to expand stunted at every turn.

At a high school reunion, they meet some former alumni who went through the shrinking process, and become intrigued with the idea. And when they visit a model city and see the kind of life they could be leading, they sign up for the adventure. But moments after Paul is called in for the medical procedure, which requires a full body shaving and teeth extraction, Audrey backs out on the deal, leaving him alone in a mansion that, after the divorce, he can no longer afford. In a short time, Paul's life of leisure becomes just as workaday and mundane as it was when he was larger, with nothing having changed.

Enter Dusan (CHRISTOPH WALTZ, THE LEGEND OF TARZAN), his upstairs neighbor in the economy apartment Paul rents. Dusan's a partier, and after one such event Paul awakens from a drunken stupor to meet Dusan's cleaning lady, a Vietnamese political dissident named Ngoc Lan Tran (HONG CHAU, INHERENT VICE), who was famous a few years earlier when the news broke of her horrific escape to America after being forcibly shrunk. Through Ngoc, Paul learns that even his utopian city has slums that grow up around it, outside the protected borders, where people live in poverty.

The plot meanders to other places, including a doomsday cult, as though the writers couldn't pick a main theme and stick with it, choosing instead to explore one idea after another as whims struck. Further, after going to such lengths to explain what needed to be done to shrink a human being, they introduce the first babies born to the newly made little people, without any consideration that the genetic code of even a shrunken human being would contain instructions to grow to a certain size. If anything, the first pregnant little person would explode like an overripe tomato within the first trimester. (A mention is made of people being shrunk in other countries who did not have their teeth removed, causing their heads to explode as they shrunk around them.)

Forced perspective and special effects make some of the scenes of DOWNSIZING something wonderful to behold. But as a cohesive and coherent plot, DOWNSIZING unfortunately comes up short.

2.5 / 5.0