COLOSSAL Review: 6 out of 10 (Monsters with Messy Messaging)
COLOSSAL is a shell game of a movie. From its marketing campaign, the film's wide-ranging tone, and even several characters--it is a movie that constantly seems to be trying to fool the audience into one thing while messaging with another. Like when you give you dog a pill. You know he won't take it, so you wrap it up in cheese so he will swallow it whole.
COLOSSAL has a bitter pill to swallow but wraps it in cheesy romantic comedy tropes and goofy monster movie action so that the audience will accept the rest. And although the value of that messaging is certainly important, it is still wrapped up in an uneven movie that has its share of flaws. The movie is directed and written by Nacho Vigalondo and stars Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell, and Tim Blake Nelson. Gloria (Hathaway) is an out-of-work party girl who, after getting kicked out of her apartment by her boyfriend, is forced to leave her life in New York and move back to her hometown. There she meets her old school friend Oscar (Sudeikis) who owns a local bar. After chumming around some (code for drinking) with Oscar and his friends Joel and Garth, Gloria comes to an odd realization when news reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, South Korea. Turns out that Gloria is connected to this giant creature and is able to control it from across the globe. This realization brings Gloria to consider her own world of power, control, and personal responsibility.
To be clear, and avoid any potential triggering, part of the aforementioned shell game is that this movie is really about some challenging subjects that range from alcoholism, abuse, and gender roles, including toxic dysfunctional relationships. And though the film does a great job of bringing those issues forward and dealing with them aggressively, the set-up, plot, and even the characters are created a bit haphazardly. Tonally this movie is all over the place--although some of that seems intentional as the film seems committed to sort of play possum with the audience a bit. But as the film does reveal its truths, there isn't much at the center of the storytelling itself. There is barely an honest attempt to justify the very premise of the film itself, which is the ability for a woman to control this avatar of a "kaiju" monster from the other side of the globe. Worse yet though is the development of some of the characters that are central to the plot and messaging of the film. Some seem stifled in the face of truly evil actions, while others disappear inexplicably from the storytelling altogether. Hathaway does offer a solid performance here of a woman with flaws who does work to gain her own emotional footing in her life. Sudeikis also works against type to add to the movie, albeit from a character that also seems written unevenly.
COLOSSAL is a movie I wanted to love based on the importance of the topics it tries to tackle. But the film itself carries a conceit that at one point goes from magical whimsy to far darker territory. But on arrival there, the movie (and the characters) then seems uncertain what to do with themselves, the monsters they have created, or the mess they have put themselves into. But for those who are OK with some uneven storytelling and tone, there are some great nuggets of engaging ideas that are there bubbling to the surface.