Monday, 30 November 2015

The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)

Fun fact, this was Joel Schumacher's directorial debut. Yep that's right, way before we got ultra campy, neon lit Batman movies we got this, a campy, excessively colourful romp based (of course) on the Richard Matheson novel 'The Shrinking Man'. Yeah I know exactly what you're thinking, I'd never heard of this movie either, well judging by the films poster it doesn't look like anybody gave it much hope frankly, holy cheeseballs!

So I think we know what's gonna happen here don't we. An everyday woman leading an everyday life falls afoul of a bizarre accident that causes her to slowly shrink down to a microscopic size. In this case its not a nuclear/atomic bomb scenario, its not a mad experiment and its got nothing to do with potions and magic. In this movie the protagonist suffers from a serve reaction to an experimental perfume her husband is working on, along with various other household things. So yes...OK, it is about a weird experiment, but its not military based. Unfortunately despite the fact they have clearly tried to move away from the old formulaic notions that have surrounded previous movies like this, this new concept is really quite daft. Sure the entire notion of shrinking to the size of an ant is daft a result of a perfume?? couldn't think of anything a bit better?

What's even more ludicrous is the fact that despite it being a perfume/household products related accident and perfume/household products being a relatively innocent and unexciting plot device, they still manage to cram in a few nasty whitecoat scientist types because of course the perfume company gets taken over in part by dubious sources wanting to work out the shrinking mystery for their own dubious plans. Everything is entirely predictable of course, you know once Kramer starts to shrink their will be the media hype to content with, the humiliation, the rubbernecking etc...Along with that you know at some point evil people will try to kidnap her for their evil ways (obviously shrinking people around the world or their own armies), and there will be some kind of adventurous escape from a nasty old lab etc...Didn't really expect anything too mind blowing in all honesty, naturally this will take on many elements of the original source material, they have tried to go in a new direction, but I'm just not sure if this was the right way.

I'm still not really sure what the colour scheme/palette was about here either. All the sets, costumes, cars, props, everything, is an array of soft, outlandish, pastel colours that range from anything and everything. Think 'Dick Tracy', 'Miami Vice' or the 50's suburban housing estate in 'Edward Scissorhands' but in really really extreme camp colours. The weird thing were the outfits everybody wears, its was like some kind of retro 50's, 70's, 80's mishmash with suits in emerald green with bright pink ties etc...I'm guessing Schumacher wanted to create some kind of timeless hybrid that has never existed, a fantasy America where everything is kinda perfect, but scratch beneath the surface and its actually just like reality.

Another odd thing was the usage of Lily Tomlin as multiple characters. Now I'm assuming this was down to her comedic background as others have done the same thing, the problem is others have done it way better. The silly thing was you can clearly tell its Tomlin, there is no real effort to not make her look any different, so in that sense its not really funny or clever (an Eddie Murphy challenge this is not). I might add her various characters aren't exactly very different from each other...and did I mention she isn't funny?

Effects wise the movie does hold its own well and this is mainly down to the old old use of large scale props and sets. Tomlin looks great within the oversized sets and the forced perspective illusion, it just never fails to win that old trick. Naturally there are some hokey bluescreen moments but that can't really be helped. The best thing about the movie effects wise is easily Rick Baker and his gorilla suit. Now if you know your movies and special effects wizards then you know Baker has a gorilla fetish, a fetish he explores deeply here. Not only is his suit excellent in detail and movement, but Baker actually plays the gentle giant too. Think the gorilla from 'Trading Places' only better. The only stupid thing about that (along with all the other stupid stuff), is at the end the Kramer family decide to keep the gorilla as a pet, because that won't cause any problems will it (do I see a gorilla based sequel with hilarious gorilla shrinking antics??

Yeah so this was a pretty mixed bag really. The visuals are undoubtedly lovely to look at in places, very colourful and cheerful, good designs and creativity, but it doesn't really make much sense why its like that. The comedy is so so, the action and adventure is so so, the acting is unsurprisingly so so despite having a darn good line-up of old stars, and the finale is too sickly. Everything gets wrapped up in a nice harmless bow with literately every character there to witness it because...I dunno. Why does she shrink so rapidly right at the end? and why or how does the chemical spillage bring her back to normal size?? Meh, its a family movie heavy on light-hearted tomfoolery and nothing more, don't question it.