You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Colossal’

Anne Hathaway's emotional problems have a "Colossal" impact in Nacho Vigalondo's comic fantasy.

Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Stevens.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4680182/

Spaniard Nacho Vigalondo’s first two features, “Timecrimes” and “Extaterrestrial,” were notable for ingeniously containing fantastical concepts within very small-scale, low-budget-friendly narrative limits. With “Colossal,” he actually gets to visualize the more outlandish aspects of a new fantasy tale via the digital effects and crowd scenes that normally come with the territory — whether it be time travel, alien invasion, or (in this case) giant monsters battling it out atop a cityscape.

But if the physical canvas has gotten bigger here, the writer-director’s imagination is otherwise in somewhat reduced form. “Colossal” takes diminishing advantage of an amusing premise, one that seems made for satirical treatment yet is executed with an increasingly awkward semi-seriousness the characters aren’t depthed (or likable) enough to ballast. Anne Hathaway’s top billing will make this a bigger commercial prospect than Vigalondo has enjoyed abroad previously. In the end, however, his conceptually eccentric enterprise may be too idiosyncratic for mainstream audiences, yet not enough for arthouses.

After a brief prologue suggesting a giant-monster sighting in the Far East a quarter-century ago, we’re introduced to the more humdrum catastrophe that is Gloria (Hathaway) as she drags herself in at dawn from another night of reckless partying. Fed up with her excuses, excessive drinking, lack of employment (since she blew her last job a year ago) and other faults she refuses to address, British boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) evicts her from his life and Manhattan apartment until she gets her act together.

Having presumably burnt all other bridges, Gloria heads shamefacedly back to a conveniently empty family home in the small town she’d left as a child. There she promptly runs into grade-school chum Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who’s clearly been holding a torch for her despite a complete lack of contact over the interim 25 years. He kindly offers a waitressing job at the local bar he inherited from his parents, and where he seems to spend most of his time hanging with best buds Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) and Joel (Austin Stowell).

As these minor personal dramas go on, however, the world’s attention is riveted to something major: On the other side of the world, a towering scaly monster has mysteriously reappeared after many years in Seoul, where it wreaks Godzilla-style havoc. Glued to the resulting news footage like everyone else, Gloria soon makes a connection that at first seems preposterous: When she makes any particular moves on a local playground at an early-morning hour, the monster duplicates them. In fact, it seems to be precisely following her lead.

This seems like the greatest party trick ever until she realizes that falling down in a drunken stupor under these circumstances can result in hundreds of dead South Koreans. She determines to sober up and spare further innocent lives. Unfortunately, by then Oscar has realized he also has the same baffling ability (materializing in Seoul as a giant robot), and his increasingly possessive attitude towards Gloria gives her little choice but bend to his emotional blackmail — lest there be more inebriated hijinks and a lot more dead Koreans.

It would seem built into this outré premise that these immature people think the world revolves around their petty emotional conflicts — and that the way in which it actually, disastrously does might be taken as a metaphor for Americans’ often heavy international footprint. But those themes and their rich satirical potential are left entirely undeveloped here. Instead, perversely, Vigalondo takes matters more earnestly even as Oscar reveals himself as a bigger jerk than hapless but essentially harmless Gloria could ever be.

Neither of them are much worth rooting for, so “Colossal” becomes a movie about small people whose messy personal “issues” create preposterously huge collateral damage. That’s something that ought to get funnier as it goes along, but despite a relatively satisfying resolution, “Colossal” instead milks diminishing humor from an inherently absurd conceit.

As she already once played a memorable monster of sorts herself in “Rachel Getting Married,” one might look forward to perpetual ingenue Hathaway re-inhabiting trainwreck territory. But both Hathaway and her director seem afraid to make her character get (or look) too down ‘n’ dirty, missing their opportunity for a more grotesquely funny lead. Likewise, Sudeikis is fine, but if Vigalondo was determined to turn the initially amiable Oscar into a snake, he and the actor ought to have taken the figure’s darkness yea farther. Stevens, Stowell, and particularly Nelson have their resources under-tapped here.

Though most of its progress takes place in the generic small-town setting (filmed in British Columbia), “Colossal” doesn’t stint on the Seoul-shot death and destruction — scenes which are glimpsed with teasing brevity until a climactic effects blowout. Paying homage to classic Japanese tokusatsu cinema, this material is fun; it’s on the human-scaled plane that “Colossal” fails to realize its full potential, finally coming off as slick stretch of a joke that needn’t have played quite so thinly.

Film Review: 'Colossal'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Vanguard), Sept. 15, 2016. (Also in Fantastic Fest, San Sebastian, Sitges film festivals.) Running time: 109 MIN.

Production: (Canada) A Brightlight Pictures production. (International sales: Voltage Pictures, Los Angeles.) Producers: Nahikari Ipiña, Nicolas Chartier, Zev Foreman, Dominic Rustam, Russell Levine, Shawn Williamson. Executive producers: Jonathan Deckter, Justin Bursch, Garrett Basch, Nacho Vigalondo, Chris Lytton, Lee Jea Woo, Choi Pyung Ho.

Crew: Director, writer: Nacho Vigalondo. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Eric Kress. Editors: Luke Doolan, Ben Baudhuin.

With: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Stevens.

More Film

  • 'The Dirt' Review: A Mötley Crüe

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

  • Zac Efron Amanda Seyfried

    Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried Join Animated Scooby-Doo Film as Fred and Daphne

    Zac Efron has signed on to voice Fred Jones while Amanda Seyfried will voice Daphne Blake in Warner Bros.’ animated Scooby-Doo feature film “Scoob.” It was revealed earlier this month that Will Forte had been set to voice Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, while Gina Rodriguez would be voicing Velma Dinkley. The mystery-solving teens and their talking [...]

  • 'Staff Only' Review: Cultures And Values

    Film Review: 'Staff Only'

    Marta (Elena Andrada) is 17, from Barcelona and alternately bored and mortified to be on a Christmas vacation to Senegal with her estranged dad, Manel (Sergi López), and annoying little brother, Bruno (Ian Samsó). For her, the freedoms of imminent adulthood, such as the occasional poolside mojito, are tantalizing close but still technically forbidden, rather [...]

  • Rocketman

    Candid 'Rocketman' Dares to Show Elton John as 'Vulnerable,' 'Damaged,' 'Ugly'

    Elton John movie “Rocketman” dares to portray the singer’s personality early in his career to have been, at times, “ugly,” Taron Egerton – who plays the pop star – told an audience at London’s Abbey Road Studios Friday, following a screening of 15 minutes of footage from the film. It is a candid portrayal, showing [...]

  • Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck's Addiction Drama Set for Awards-Season Release

    Warner Bros. has given Ben Affleck’s untitled addiction drama an awards-season-friendly release date of Oct. 18. The film, which has been known previously as “The Has-Been” and “Torrance,” is directed by Gavin O’Connor and stars Affleck as a former basketball player struggling with addiction, which has led to him losing his wife. As part of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content