UK Release Date: 19th May 2017
Runtime: 109 minutes
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Tim Blake Nelson, Austin Stowell
Synopsis: An alcoholic who returns to her hometown after her boyfriend leaves her, is shocked to discover that a destructive kaiju attacking the people of South Korea is linked to her actions in some way.
Occasionally, a film manages to make its way into multiplexes despite being steadfastly uncommercial and utterly bizarre. Colossal, from Spanish writer-director Nacho Vigalondo, is a prime example of such an oddball phenomenon. With less starry cast members than Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis, it could easily have become submerged under the flood of fluff that comes from the Sundance-tinged corner of the festival circuit. However, the kaiju-focused quirk-com has indeed made its way into British cinemas, where it emerges as something of an odd beast that is never able to settle on a tone.
Unemployed writer and destructive alcoholic Gloria (Hathaway) returns to her hometown after her boozing leads to boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) booting her out of their swanky New York apartment. She reunites with childhood friend Oscar (Sudeikis), who is now running his father’s bar. Gloria bonds with Oscar and his friends Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) and Joel (Austin Stowell) after getting a job at the bar. When she wakes up from a drunken night, Gloria discovers that a lizard-like kaiju is rampaging through Seoul, South Korea. The monster continues to reappear and Gloria notices that her actions seem to have a direct impact on the creature.
The main selling point of Colossal is also its greatest issue. It’s a tonal hybrid that attempts to marry comedy, romance, horror, sci-fi and just about everything in between. Needless to say, there’s plenty about this unusual mixture that simply doesn’t work and Colossal often suffers from baffling inconsistency, even between scenes. It’s a film that can’t decide whether its central message is about alcoholism, ambition, domestic abuse, responsibility or all manner of other things and, as such, its ideas never coalesce into a coherent tale.
At the centre of Vigalondo’s tonal dysfunction is Jason Sudeikis’ character. He’s an actor who is too often shepherded in broad comedic directions, so the more developed and nuanced character he plays here probably seemed attractive on the page. Unfortunately, the film forces Sudeikis to veer wildly through a galaxy of different personas like a tiny little ball ricocheting around a roulette wheel. He is unable to ever focus the character in the way that Anne Hathaway does and thus his arc is somewhat unsatisfying, whereas her strong portrayal is the highlight of the movie.
Colossal is an impressive work on some levels, boasting some very convincing creature effects given its tiny $15m budget. The scenes of rampage and destruction are very well-realised and the finale has a sense of spectacle that seems more like a major blockbuster than a minor indie comedy. Unfortunately, for a film sold as a comedy, it’s in that department that it falls completely flat. There aren’t nearly enough laughs to sustain the film’s running time, with Hathaway doing her best to inject some comedic energy into Vigalondo’s often limp and always unsure script.
This is a film that has a lot of ideas and could, in better hands, have emerged as a really special vehicle for Hathaway and Sudeikis, particularly given the ways in which the latter’s character evolves in the second half of the story. As it happens, it’s a movie that fails to deliver on the promise of its conceit and short-changes Sudeikis enormously, delivering a muddled and unfocused tale. A good ending isn’t enough to save it from its own convoluted viewpoint.
Pop or Poop?
Anne Hathaway’s strong central performance and a genuinely intriguing idea just aren’t enough in Colossal. It’s a film that throws too much at the screen in the hope that it will all work, sacrificing the narrative focus that could’ve helped its bizarre premise to work. Nacho Vigalondo’s film had potential, but much of it is unfortunately squandered by the time the credits roll.
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