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Movie Review: “Downsizing”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 12/22/2017

Theatrical Release: 12/22/2017

Synopsis

Downsizing is a new medical phenomenon that is all over the news, and it is a major talking point in social circles across the globe. It is a new technological breakthrough that allows scientists to shrink humans down to a height of only five inches. It is an incredible technological advancement that could have an incredible ecological impact on our planet. With humans being a tiny fraction of their normal size, it would mean that their carbon footprint would be reduced by just as much.

Shrinking humans, and not shrinking their resources, could solve a lot of the world’s problems. The only problem is finding people who are willing to be downsized. What kind of person would want to give up life as they know it to be shrunk down to only five inches tall? Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) is one such person. He has convinced his wife (Kristen Wiig) that the global benefits far outweighed their personal uncertainty and they agreed to take this step together. However, Paul’s wife backed out at the last minute, leaving him to move on with his life as a five inch tall man on his own.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

The Idea (+4pts)

What Now? (-5pts)

Christoph Waltz & Matt Damon (+4pts)

The Second Story (-6pts)

Hong Chau (+8pts)

The Third Story (-6pts)

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Pro: The Idea (+4pts)

This movie had an idea that made way for a lot of thought-provoking questions. How would your life change if you were shrunk down to this size? How would it impact your bank account if common, everyday food and supplies did not shrink, making them last much longer? What would the ecological impact be on the earth if a large percentage of humanity's population were downsized, therefore leaving a much smaller carbon footprint?

The premise was silly on the surface, but it raised a lot of interesting questions. It raised questions about humanity, as well as our relationship to the planet we live on. The filmmakers only touched on these questions, which was a bit of a bummer, but the premise made me ask those questions myself. While it would have been nice if the filmmakers focused more on these questions, the premise was certainly effective at hooking me in, and at making me think.

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Con: What Now? (-5pts)

The filmmakers had a strong premise, being as silly as it was thought-provoking. Unfortunately, it felt like the filmmakers gave little thought to what came after Paul’s downsizing. I got the impression that the filmmakers had the idea, but they did not have a full story to go with it. I will get into this issue in more detail throughout this review, but in speaking to the first part of the story, the filmmakers really had nothing for Paul to do once he was small, which made the entire rest of the plot feel aimless, which in turn made it uninteresting.

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Pro: Christoph Waltz & Matt Damon (+4pts)

Christoph Waltz and Matt Damon have each proven themselves comedically, and they have certainly proven themselves dramatically. Christoph Waltz has been a Bond villain in Spectre, he played mostly dramatic characters in Alita: Battle Angel and Tulip Fever, he has delivered performances that were mostly comedic with movies like Horrible Bosses 2, and he has delivered performances that balanced the comedy with the drama in movies like Django Unchained. I would be here all day if I listed the examples of Matt Damon’s various performances, but with strong dramatic performances like The Martian, Good Will Hunting, and all of the Jason Bourne movies, he has definitely proven himself dramatically. His comedic roles have been a bit fewer and farther between, but he has sprinkled various little comedic gems throughout his career, and with his hilarious bits with Jimmy Kimmel, the actor has definitely proven himself comedically.

To put all of that really simply, the two actors have proven that they can handle all the drama that is thrown at them, and they have proven their strong comedic ability as well. Without these two actors—or similarly talented ones—in these roles, this would have been a tough movie to get through. They did not have a ton of material to really showcase their talent, but they did what the movie needed them to do. They delivered the comedy when necessary, they delivered the drama when necessary, and they kept me both moderately entertained and moderately interested in the movie.

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Con: The Second Story (-6pts)

The filmmakers did not seem to have any idea on where they wanted to take the story after Paul was downsized. Instead of relating it to the premise, they took the story in a completely different direction, and it made the premise seem completely irrelevant. The good thing about this part of the story was that it introduced Hong Chau's character, but I will get into what I liked so much about that character later. While I liked the introduction of Hong Chau's character—Ngoc Lan Tran—I did not think it was at all relevant to Paul's story leading up to the downsizing.

Paul's involvement in Ngoc's story felt forced, and it felt like a lazy attempt at keeping the movie going. Instead of coming up with clever, more interesting concepts that revolved around the premise of the movie, the filmmakers seemed to abandon the premise in favor of going in a direction that had absolutely nothing to do with the beginning of the story. The premise will get people to watch this movie, but the filmmakers' decision to figuratively jump ship was as disappointing as it was confusing. The story within this second part of the movie was not bad, it just did not feel relevant to the premise, which made the movie feel incoherent.

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Pro: Hong Chau (+8pts)

When Paul first met Ngoc Lan Tran, I thought she would be a stereotypical character, and I ended up being very pleasantly surprised by both the character’s story and the actress in the role. Ngoc had a naturally sympathetic story. It was one that Paul connected with, and it was one that I sympathized with it. Hong Chau’s performance was what really put this character over for me. She nailed the comedy, and she absolutely crushed the drama. Hong Chau’s performance was captivating in a movie that mostly fell flat in other areas. She gave this movie depth, she gave this movie heart, she made me laugh, and she was without a doubt the best part of this movie.

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Con: The Third Story (-6pts)

After Paul’s downsizing, the filmmakers took this story in a completely different direction, but this was not the only time the filmmakers did this. The first story was about Paul deciding to downsize. The second story was about Paul’s life afterward. Then the third story was this weird cult thing, which I will not say much more about for the sake of avoiding spoilers.

This was more evidence that the filmmakers had absolutely no idea where they wanted to take this story. It felt like they randomly slapped a few stories together to form one incoherent movie, and then just called it a day. This is not to say that I did not like anything within these sections of the movie, but rather that I did not think the filmmakers fit them together in a coherent way. It made the movie feel choppy, and it made the ending feel hollow, because I was not invested in it at all.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: C- (74pts)

The filmmakers had an interesting premise with this movie, but they seemed to have no idea what they wanted to do with the story after executing that premise. The premise was simple enough, as it was about shrinking humanity and exploring the impact that it would have on our lives on earth. It was a simple premise that opened the door for a number of compelling questions about our relationship with our resources on this planet, as well as the carbon foot print that we leave behind. The filmmakers did not seem to want to go anywhere with that premise or the questions it raised. Instead, when Paul shrank, the filmmakers took this story in multiple different and random directions that had nothing to do with the premise.

The first part of the movie was about Paul deciding to downsize, and I liked everything leading up to that. The next part was about Paul’s life after downsizing and introducing Hong Chau’s character, which had almost nothing to do with the premise of the movie. Then the movie took another turn into this weird cult storyline, which made me feel like the filmmakers had absolutely no idea what they were doing with this movie. They just delivered a jumbled mess that fell way short of its potential. Fortunately, I thought Hong Chau did an outstanding job, as she was easily the best thing about this movie. She was really funny, her character had a compelling story, and she added a ton of heart to the movie. Without her this movie would have been bad, but she gave a performance that was as entertaining as it was captivating, and it ultimately made this movie watchable.

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