Even though some unfortunate souls have shrunk by way of fantastic means over the years, the interest of this transformation has always been of a decent proportion. Donald Pleasance, Dennis Quaid and even recently Paul Rudd undergoing a major reduction at the behest of Marvel has led to positive results in Ant Man. Now Matt Damon has experienced the same height adjustment by way of Alexander Payne’s Downsizing but much like his condition barely makes any impact whatsoever.
Already familiar with focusing on a middle-aged man in the midst of a crisis with The Descendants, Payne’s newest take puts a similar character under the microscope in more ways than one. Damon plays Paul Safranek, a fella struggling to make ends meet for the benefit of himself and his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig). Thankfully, we’re living in an alternate world where a recent scientific discovery has led simple folk shuffling off their troubles and shrinking down to five inches.
The process, known as ‘downsizing’ leads to a healthier, richer lifestyle with the only drawback being that the change is irreversible. Naturally our leading man jumps at the chance, only for things to go wrong very quickly and he’s forced to adapt to this small world he’s ended up in.
Much like the fancy new gimmick that everyone is raving out, Downsizing quickly dies the second the process is complete. Every interesting and potential element to the story you thought would be explored vanishes and we instead follow Damon’s Paul having a gradual breakdown. It’s only when he meets Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau) that he begins to take a new lease on life and his world changes for the better. That’s all well and good of course, but none of it links to the selling point that Payne had stamped on the box. There’s no clever perception of this whole mini universe that’s so half-heartedly built, which may well be integral to the message the film is trying to tell, but shakes it off the first chance it gets and shifts its attention into a mundane story.
Damon is dull as the man who loses everything and tries to make the most of what’s left. Plodding along in a film that didn’t need shrinking down – if anything it needed bulking up. The positives (few as they may be) thankfully rest with the likes of Christoph Waltz as his eccentric next door neighbour in this Miniapolis, and Chau as an infamous downsizer who helps Paul see the bigger picture. It’s this transfer between characters that Payne desperately tries to enforce, to distract you from the scam that’s been put in place, leaving Downsizing to feel like one massively missed opportunity.