Paul (Matt Damon) talks to a friend about his considerations in Downsizing. (Paramount Pictures image)

Reel Reviews: New Year, new options

Dissecting Downsizing and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

We have managed to see a few movies over the holidays. Here are short reviews for two, Downsizing and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

Downsizing

Matt Damon plays a young man who decides to make use of a new technology that promises to save the world: Downsizing. Scientists have figured out how to greatly reduce the size of living things such as human beings. After the procedure the average person is about 5 inches tall. Being of such diminutive stature means that many people can take us little space, use smaller amounts of resources and produce less waste. They also can stretch their dollar further and afford to live to much higher standards.

TAYLOR: Unfortunately, this film is a perfect example of how a good film doesn’t necessarily grow out of a good idea. Being tiny in a big world doesn’t really come into play as the tiny folk live in tiny towns, protected from animals and insects, among other things. The smallness of their existence is meant to be reflected in the banality of their lives, in much the same way as their bigness was. Downsizing is a tale of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence, which of course is not true. Audiences are left with a story about human beings trying to discover meaning in a world where love is as good as it gets, which makes it very ordinary. The fact that the story, like the main character, wanders quietly through his life makes Downsizing a disappointing movie, about nothing in particular, but it takes itself seriously and has nothing technically wrong with it.

HOWE: I guess the director/movie company didn’t want to go with the Honey I Shrunk the Kids story line with their little ones getting chased by giant flying bugs or living under a toadstool as a house. This story is much more than that: it shows how much we waste, how much we take for granted and how a person, no matter their size, gender, race, age or disability are able to change their ways. Yes, it’s a little cheesy, yes it’s Hollywoodized and very predictable, but sometimes we just need to leave our brain in neutral and enjoy films for what they are, a fun silly sci-fi with some fine actors. And, my wife says, anything with Matt Damon and his perfect smile is worth watching.

Taylor gives Downsizing 2.5 dust mites out of 5

Howe gives it 3.5 bottles of vodka out of 5.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

In a sequel to 1995’s Jumanji where Robin Williams is discovered lost in a magical game universe that has exploded into the real world, this new film reverses the concept, trapping kids from the real world into the game universe. These four kids end up playing the game as video game avatars, but from within the game’s characters. So the skinny nerd Spencer becomes Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson, the athletic footballer Fridge becomes the diminutive scientist embodied by Kevin Hart, the moody, bookish Martha becomes the sexy lady adventurer Karen Gillan (think Lara Croft) and the beautiful cheerleader Bethany becomes a pudgy, middle-aged male scientist, Jack Black. Having all these teens (each chosen from cliques that have life lessons to learn) embody these adults is what makes this film fun. What they do is inconsequential: They play the game, they find their MacGuffins, they more or less do what you’d expect. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is fun, funny and well made. It’s exemplary of what modern wholesome teen entertainment looks like in the twenty-first century. I liked it very much. For what it is, it’s very well executed.

Taylor gives Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle 4.5 poses out of 5.

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