There's lots of different kinds of movie magic at work in "Colossal," the new film starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis.
There's the unexplained magic in the plot that adds a science fiction/monster movie twist to what would otherwise be a dramedy about adults behaving badly as they deal with emotional baggage.
There's the literal special effects involved in bringing the aforementioned sci-fi elements to life in what would otherwise be a relatively budget-friendly independent film.
And then there's the magic that makes it all come together into one of 2017's most unusual and entertaining films yet.
Yes, that's right -- it all works pretty well, logic be damned.
What's it about?
Hathaway plays Gloria, a New York party girl in hot water with her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) over her late nights drinking and seeming inability to find a new job. She doesn't take Tim's angry lecturing about getting her life together seriously until he kicks her out of their apartment, a move she truly did not see coming.
Homeless and broke, she returns to her hometown, and to the now-vacant house where she grew up. It's not long before she runs into Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who she went to elementary school with and who never left home, having inherited his dad's bar.
On some level, Gloria knows hanging out at Oscar’s bar with his drinking buddies isn’t the best first step in getting her life back on track. But old habits die hard – Oscar puts a beer in front of her, and it’s not long before she picks it up.
Meanwhile, literally on the other side of the world in Seoul, Korea, something miraculous and terrifying occurs. A monster that towers above the city’s skyscrapers appears out of nowhere, stomps around town leaving enormous footprints, and disappears moments later.
The same thing happens the next night, and the next, and soon the entire world, Gloria and her friends included, are riveted to world news and online live streaming sites watching for the monster’s next appearance.
How on Earth could Gloria’s fall to rock bottom be connected to the appearance of a Godzilla-like monster in South Korea? There is a tie between the two, and once Gloria figures it out, the question becomes what to do about it, if anything can be done at all.
Literal and figurative monsters
“Colossal” is written and directed by Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2003 for a short film entitled “7:35 in the Morning.” The new film’s script shares some of the short film’s more memorable traits, including a relatively outlandish premise and the importance of an event happening each day in the same time and place.
Vigalondo uses the longer format of “Colossal” to add several allegorical elements. Without giving too much away, Gloria isn’t just trying to solve the mystery of the literal monster terrorizing the residents of downtown Seoul each night – there are other “monsters” at work, as well, monsters far more immediate to her everyday life.
It’s not very subtle, and it’s not all consistent. In fact, if you think about it too much as you’re watching, you’ll find the plot holes.
That doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. Vigalondo’s funny and emotionally honest script, brought to life by a cast blessed with solid comedic timing, injects urgency and immediacy into the film’s dramatic beats. It’s tough not to get invested in Gloria’s adventure, as outlandish as it might seem.
Hathaway, Sudeikis shine
Though the monster movie aspect of “Colossal” might be its most memorable, it takes up far less screen time than the film’s personal drama elements. Thus, it falls to the cast to keep audiences engaged.
As stated earlier, this comically talented cast proves up to the task. Hathaway leads the way, delivering Gloria as believable, charming in a loveable trainwreck sort of way, and ultimately worth caring about.
Opposite Hathaway is Jason Sudeikis, sporting a beard that seems to lend more weight to his expression and dramatic presence on screen. He’s funny when the script calls for it, certainly, but audiences used to his goofball demeanor in “We’re the Millers” and the “Horrible Bosses” films might be genuinely surprised at how well Sudeikis handles the dramatic range he’s called upon to deliver here.
Dan Stevens, who’s been busy of late between his film work in “Beauty and the Beast” and on TV in FX’s “Legion” series, also provides an effective foil for Sudeikis in limited screen time.
Since “Colossal” won’t be in every local theater (at least at first), you might have to travel a little out of your way to see it.
The effort is without a doubt worthwhile, though. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s a memorable one, utilizing an outrageous plot device to power an emotional narrative that ultimately should resonate with most audiences.
If it doesn’t make it to a theater in your area, make a note to watch for it on demand or on streaming services later this year. Missing it would be … well, it would be a colossal shame.
Starring Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell, and Tim Blake Nelson. Directed by Nacho Vigalondo.
Running time: 110 minutes
Rated R for language.