Movie Review: “Colossal” overkill

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OK, so I’m a little late getting to this one. VERY late then, sure.

But I meant to see it when it had a short run at the regional art cinema. Just never got around to it. So that counts, right?

“Colossal” is a personal responsibility dramedy grafted onto a Korean monster picture — “Smashed” or “Rachel Getting Married” meets “The Host.” And seeing it in the cold light of day, after any hype around its oddness, its against-the-grain charms, it’s a somewhat threadbare affair, a little too on-the-nose in message and off in tone to quite come off.

Anne Hathaway is never for one second believable as a beautiful, big-haired drunk, wasting away in  sea of Pabst Blue Ribbon to the point her stiff of a boyfriend (Dan Stevens, thy name is “stiff”) kicks her out.

Gloria is supposed to be a party girl. But when she’s shown the door, the party’s over. Nobody takes her in. It’s back to small-town New England with her, no more New York dreams or delusions of “making it” there as a writer.

She sets up housekeeping in her parents’ empty, unrented house. And who’s the first guy she connects with when she rolls into town? That would be old school chum Oscar, who inherited the family business. And what business would be the very best place for Gloria to get her act together? Oscar’s bar.

But on the other side of the world, bigger things are afoot. A big thing with big feet, huge horns and a vast tail, to be exact. A monster is menacing Seoul, South Korea. Gloria, who suffers memory losses on a daily basis and blackouts during every night’s binge, is slack-jawed with shock. The rest of the world is, too, even as people keep going to work, checking into cable news all day as they do.

So even though Oscar announces “You know you’re watching something that’s going to change the course of history,” nothing much changes for him, his drinking buddies (Tim Blake Nelson, Austin Stowell) or Gloria.

But Gloria sobers up long enough to notice something about the monster, the quizzical looks on its face, the way it scratches its head as a nervous tic. It’s her. But it only appears when she crosses this playground in her hometown. And it only hurts the hapless citizens of Seoul through carelessness, clumsiness and narcissism.

Writer-director Nacho Vigolando skims over Gloria’s way of reasoning this situation out, skipping straight to the experiment she conducts to see if her theory is true. He’s more interested in her past — childhood flashbacks “explain” how this space-time warp with monsters came about. And he’s tickled at how she explains this to her new drinking buddies, and how they all accept this new reality as either a responsibility or as another way of expressing their drunken dismay at their limited world and their place in it.

The picture has basically one gimmick, one major point, and spends 109 minutes ambling towards it. Hathaway dresses down and offers us a more winded version of the lovelorn and lost screen persona she’s built around herself.

Sudeikis plays another “Jason Sudeikis” role — sweet-seeming only on the page, with the scary eyes and testiness barely in check. Merely casting him so reveals the character’s true nature that an attentive viewer is watching all his warm attentions for Gloria with a “When’re the gloves coming off?” dread.

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The effects are indie-comedy cheap, and the tale’s overarching morality’s a bit murky.

That doesn’t utterly undercut “Colossal.” The personal responsibility allegory — Gloria has to accept how she hurts others, learn to control it and if possible atone for it — is sharp and I wish more sci-fi would point itself in similar directions. Insignificant lives can have enormous consequences.

But once you get that idea out there, the movie should be a sprint to its coda. And Vigalonda never, for one second, injects urgency into this story or properly sets the table for what’s at stake, personally, temporally or globally.

In the end, all that’s “Colossal” about it are its pretensions, and its length.

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MPAA Rating: R for language

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

Credits: Written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo. A Neon release.

Running time: 1:49

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