E7634E9D-C73B-4D79-82AC-9F80E5F2076AMatt Damon is a strange creature. There are times when I watch one of his movies, let’s say The Martian for example, where I think, y’know, maybe Team America: World Police had it all wrong. He’s a pretty decent actor and ignoring his real-life persona, he’s a fairly warm presence on screen. Then I watch one of his movies, let’s say Downsizing for example and for the purpose of this review, and I think Team America: World Police went far too easy on him.

Downsizing is the latest effort from director Alexander Payne (Nebraska, About Schmidt), and dear God is it an effort. In the not too distant future, and during an unnecessarily long prologue, we learn that a bunch of Scandinavian scientists have discovered a method that shrinks organic matter down to a fraction of its original size without doing it any other damage and without side effects. Jump forward a number of years and we learn that when applied to humans, this may be the answer to the earth’s ecological problems. Small humans — like really small humans — use a negligible amount of resources compared with their regular-sized counterparts. And if that wasn’t enough, a $150,000 nest-egg as a big guy, translates to $12,000,000 fortune in the wee world, meaning a gigantic big house in a dedicated small community and never having to work again. What’s not to love?

During this we’re introduced to Matt. Damon. and his wife Kristen Wiig, a DINK couple (Paul & Audrey) who have inherited their home from Paul’s mom and yet for reasons never really explained are living from paycheck to paycheck and still house-hunting homes they couldn’t possibly afford. They’re prime candidates for this new procedure and after a few scenes where Damon does his very best “indecisive” face, they go for it. The procedure, again for reasons never really explained, involves removal of every last hair on one’s body and after Paul has gotten himself shrunk, he learns that Audrey had second thoughts when she was down to her last eyebrow and his plans for the rest of his life have taken a massive turn.

The premise itself, up to the Audrey Abandonment, is actually quite interesting, so the fact that this is billed as a comedy and yet a half hour can go by without the slightest hint of a laugh is actually forgiveable. Where the movie chooses to go after this is less so.

Every racial stereotype you can possibly imagine somehow manages to shoe-horn its way into the lazy plot that slowly unfolds. There are a couple of sleazy Eurotrash playboys, played by Christoph Waltz and Udo Kier, who capitalize on the Wild West nature of this blossoming small economy. Every laborer or cleaner is Mexican or Asian and live through a literal hole at the edge of society. Then we have a Vietnamese dissident, shrunk against her will and thrown into a TV box who somehow survives, loses her leg, and ends up cleaning up after a never-ending series of playboy parties, and despite speaking Spanish apparently fluently, can only bark orders in English with no knowledge of plurals or definite and indefinite articles. I’m not sure if any of this is meant to be funny, but as I sat with my liberal, snowflake mouth hanging open and my liberal, snowflake head shaking at what I was watching, I don’t recall my liberal, snowflake ears being deafened with laughter.

Racial politics aside, it’s still a hot mess of movie that allows Matt Damon to utilize his “hopeful” face at the end of one scene, only to have to transition into his “perplexed” face at the start of the next. He manages to do some other faces while he is sans hair and eyebrows, but those are far more difficult to discern. Who’da thunk much of Damon’s acting ability was down to his hair and eyebrows? Then there comes a moment where Paul seems to make a major life and moral decision based purely on how much walking will be involved and it was at this point that I muttered, “This is the worst movie I have ever seen.”

I’ve cooled off a little since then. This isn’t the worst movie I have seen. There’s a good movie in here somewhere. Or at least, there’s a decent idea struggling to get out. This, as it stands, is certainly not the former and is shockingly bad use of the latter.

Just awful.

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