Colossal – A Fun Ride at a Kiddie Park Turns a Tad Disappointing
Movie Review by Sreedevi Jayarajan (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Spanish Writer-Director Nacho Vigalondo has established himself as the master of conceptually absurd, genre hybrid films, much like his most recent film, Colossal. The movie has gained considerable traction both for its cast as well as for the odd mix of dissimilar (some would say downright incompatible) genres that form an impossible narrative. It’s a pity that Vigalondo isn’t one hundred percent successful in his endeavor.
The monster flick starring Anne Hathaway is for the most part a rom-com, with some quarter life drama, fantasy, action and horror thrown into the mix.
The film begins with a flashback to Seoul, South Korea. Twenty-five years ago, a giant monster, also known as a Kaiju, taller than the tallest skyscrapers, was sighted for the first time. Cut to New York City in the present, and we see a hungover Gloria (Hathaway) sneak back into her boyfriend’s apartment after a night of heavy partying. By way of their break-up conversation, one which ends with the boyfriend (Dan Stevens) evicting her from his apartment, we learn that Gloria is an out-of-work Internet journalist and an alcoholic with a life that’s nothing short of a train wreck. Broke and homeless, she shifts back to her quaint hometown which she left twenty-five years ago. Predictably, she runs into her elementary school friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who, we are lead to believe, has had a crush on her on all this while.
What is seemingly a budding friendship between Oscar and Gloria and Oscar’s two pals quickly turns dark and ugly when Gloria and Oscar find out that the monster wreaking havoc in Seoul (this time with a Giant Robot) is somehow connected to them. The rest of the plot is for you to find out; all I can reveal is that a film which promises to be a brilliantly told combination of fantasy and humor (that legit gets you chuckling in the hall) assumes a sort of pseudo-seriousness and “save humanity” tone, going against the grain of the film.
To his credit, Vigalondo does manage to hold the genre-hybridness of the narrative together, up until he drops the ball hard towards the climax of the film. The end is both vague and ambitious in that it tries to address too many issues – childhood trauma, addiction, abuse and female empowerment – and goes nowhere in the process.
Even if it was the director’s intention to get a little serious towards the end, the characters are a bit too flat to pull off the sort of intensity seen in the final bits of the movie. This is especially true of Jason Sudeikis; he is cleverly cast in a dark role and looks promising until the plot shrinks his character into a silly joke. As for Gloria, Hathaway takes her usual rolling eyes, pulling faces and looking bewildered act a bit too far, almost putting Winona Ryder at the Emmys to shame. Aside from this, Oscar’s two pals, played by Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowell, are stereotyped and add nothing further to the storyline.
The plot is built through a series of predictable and chance incidents – Gloria going back to the conveniently empty house that belongs to her parents, her bumping into Oscar, Oscar having a crush on her after all these years and it leading to him developing an obsession – all of which tend to weaken the plot by making it more predictable and less convincing.
However, what’s most disappointing about the movie is that it could have been a brilliant metaphor for a lot of things – battling inner demons, alcoholism, and even a take on the great influence America has over the world. However, the threads to all these plausible deeper meanings are abruptly severed, reducing Colossal to a mere story about the messy emotional lives of two ordinary 30 somethings which also happens to have massive ramifications for South Korea. Either that is what the director intended, or he simply fails to take the plot to someplace deeper.
Many brilliant parallels could have been drawn from the plot. However, Vigalondo refuses to rise up to the occasion, making “Colossal” a fun ride at a kid’s park that quickly turns out to be a bore fest.