A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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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?
- In theaters: December 22, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: March 20, 2018
- Cast: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Kristen Wiig
- Director: Alexander Payne
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 135 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language including sexual references, some graphic nudity and drug use
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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