Downsizing

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Downsizing Movie Poster Image
Overlong sci-fi comedy has a heavy message, mature content.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 135 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Talks quite a bit about the way humans abuse our planet, consuming too many natural resources and leaving too much waste -- which is certainly worth discussing. But the movie takes a fairly pessimistic view, as if the problem is beyond solving.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ngoc Lan Tran is very interesting in that she seems fairly selfless and is mainly interested in helping others. She sits with a dying old lady and brings food to the poor. But her character does exhibit some stereotypical qualities along with her better ones. Other characters seems to think mainly of themselves.

Violence

Some blood shown during the "downsizing" process; teeth pulled. Discussion of "heads exploding" while perfecting the process. Brief altercation in a bar. Lab mice appear to be harmed during experiments. Minor characters die. Arguing. Protesting.

Sex

Brief full-frontal male nudity, seen mainly at a distance or in photographs. Naked male bottom seen briefly in shower. Kissing, suggested sex at wild party. Some strong sex-related talk.

Language

More than one use of "f--k" (several in a row in one scene), plus "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "ass," "idiot," and "Jesus," "oh my God" (as exclamations) and "hate her guts."

Consumerism

Giant Absolut Vodka bottles shown. Cheesecake Factory mentioned. Coca-Cola bottle cap shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Character drinks alone in despair. Social drinking -- beer, gin, etc. Use of unknown hallucinogenic drugs and pills at a wild party. Drug trip shown. Mention of "sharing needles." Cigar smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Downsizing is a sci-fi comedy about a man (Matt Damon) who undergoes an experimental process: being shrunk down to five inches tall to help save the planet. Expect to see a little blood, some fighting and arguing, and lab mice who appear to be harmed; minor characters die. Language includes several uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "a--hole," and more. There's brief male full-frontal nudity, as well as partial nudity, kissing, suggestions of sex, and strong sex talk. Characters drink socially and alone, a character smokes cigars, and characters take unknown pills and hallucinogenic drugs at a party (a "drug trip" is shown). An Asian character is very giving and helpful but is also portrayed in a way that veers close to stereotype. Even though the movie is from acclaimed director Alexander Payne, it's too long, not very funny, extremely preachy, and awfully downbeat.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAhmed A. December 26, 2017
Teen, 13 years old Written byE.M. April 12, 2018

The most OK movie Ive ever seen.

Honestly, I have mixed feeling about this movie. It was so weird. It starts off pleasant, but then it just gets kinda weird and a little unwatchable. I thought... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byBeatlesfiend February 20, 2018

Uhhhhh

This movie could have been PG-13. Yes, there is some frontal male nudity (only once from what I remember, the rest is strategically covered), and there is about... Continue reading

What's the story?

In DOWNSIZING, a Norwegian scientist invents a way to shrink people down to just about 5 inches tall, thereby offering a way to lower humanity's strain on Earth's resources. Meanwhile, struggling physical therapist Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) is having trouble paying his bills. After meeting an old friend (Jason Sudeikis) who's gone through the shrinking procedure and learning that his money would go a lot further if he, too, were small, Paul and his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), sign up for the program. But Audrey balks at the last second, leaving Paul alone in the tiny community called Leisure Land Estates. Paul soon meets playboy Dusan Mirkovic (Christoph Waltz), as well as Dusan's maid, illegal Vietnamese immigrant Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), and finds a connection with them. Soon he embarks on an adventure to the end of the Earth, meeting the original scientists and learning a terrible truth about the planet we live on.

Is it any good?

Coming from acclaimed director Alexander Payne, this sci-fi comedy is an oddity: an overlong, over-written, message-heavy misfire that's almost totally unlike anything else he's ever done. Downsizing takes forever to get started and explain the painful shrinking process -- it requires pulling out all of a person's teeth -- before going on too many detours until it finally reaches its ultimate point. Which is that humans are destroying our own planet. Normally in sci-fi or comedy, messages like that are carefully presented as subtle subtext. But this movie simply slaps our faces with it.

The screenplay almost feels as if nothing from any early drafts was ever thrown away, as if new scenes were simply tacked onto old ones. It does allow for a fun performance by Waltz and a tricky one by Hong Chau, but the movie doesn't seem as interested in characters or story as it is in messages, and it doesn't support the characters as well as it should. (Despite having a fairly large role, Wiig disappears early on and never returns.) It seems as if a fine multi-episode miniseries could have been made out of this material, or a much shorter movie, but as it is, Downsizing feels flabby and overstuffed; it could have used its own shrink ray.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Downsizing's depicts sex. What's shown, and what's discussed? How is sex talked about? Does it seem like a positive act here?

  • How does the movie depict drinking? Do people drink together or alone? Why? Do they enjoy it? Does the movie make it look enticing?

  • Is Ngoc Lan Tran a positive representation of a woman and a Vietnamese person, or does she veer into stereotype?

  • What does the movie have to say about the state of the Earth? Can we fix it?

  • Would you ever decide to "downsize"? What are the drawbacks? The benefits?

Movie details

For kids who love sci-fi dramedies

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