Fresh on 4K: ‘DOWNSIZING’ – a high concept that comes up short

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Connor Bynum // Film Critic

DOWNSIZING

Rated R, 135 minutes.
Director: Alexander Payne
Cast: Matt DamonChristoph WaltzHong ChauKristen WiigRolf LassgårdIngjerd EgebergUdo Kier and Jason Sudeikis

Matt Damon seems to be on somewhat of a losing streak after his Oscar-nominated performance in THE MARTIAN. With duds like THE GREAT WALL and SUBURBICON under his belt, he probably had high hopes for DOWNSIZING. Unfortunately, he and his fans have been let down once more with this boring and unfunny comedy, that even the jump to 4K can’t save it from its own demise.

Movie Grade: D

The first half of DOWNSIZING is bursting with potential. As the human race becomes increasingly wasteful of earth’s natural resources, a scientist discovers a way to (permanently) shrink a human being down to merely five inches tall in efforts to increase conservation of our planet. However, people become enamoured with the idea upon learning that even the most struggling middle class families can live like royalty in the world of the small. Thus, downsizing oneself becomes less about saving the planet, and more about early retirement.

It’s such an interesting concept and the film even introduces potential conflict early on that never gets brought up again. Should a small person have the same rights as everyone else? Should their vote count as much as a bigger person? After all, a small person wouldn’t contribute nearly as much to the economy as their larger counterparts. The viewer then braces themselves for an allegory on civil rights akin to HORTON HEARS A WHO.

But alas, about half way through, the film decides to completely abandon these ideas in favor of a bland and preachy message about how the human race is doomed no matter what efforts are taken to save the planet, so we should all do volunteer work to help the less fortunate. Is that a noble cause? Of course it is. Does DOWNSIZING approach this idea with any ounce of subtlety? No, it doesn’t.

Video/Audio Grade: D+

Of all the films to get the upscale treatment for a 4K release, DOWNSIZING is probably the most ironic. Still, having been captured and mastered in 3.4K resolution shouldn’t have been much of a problem to upscale. Yet in spite of only having a minor gap to close, DOWNSIZING rarely looks worthy of the format. Details such as clothing textures and skin tones often appear faded and soft, and scenes in which small people interact with the big folk end up feeling laughably cheap. This is made even more unpleasant by the poor use of HDR across the board. Dark scenes are crushed beyond repair giving that unmistakable grey film look that even transcends into the widescreen black bars. Colors in the brightest scenes are desaturated and bland.

The Dolby DTS HD Master 7.1 Audio track is also forgettable at best and disgraceful at worst. Dialogue is constantly hard to hear over ambient effects and its musical score. Overall, this is probably the worst 4K experience I’ve had since MOTHER!

Extras Grade: D+

No special features are included on the 4K disc. The six features that did make their way onto the standard Blu-ray disc offer about an hour of content. One featurette in particular is worth a gander as it touches on how they accomplished shots with both large and small people on screen. Of course the filmmakers couldn’t help themselves and tossed in a six minute snippet on environmental awareness after spending the same amount of time gushing over Matt Damon.

  • Working with Alexander
  • The Cast
  • A Visual Journey
  • A Matter of Perspective
  • That Smile
  • A Global concern

Final Grade: D+

DOWNSIZING is a loathsome experience, and its lackluster 4K presentation hardly makes it a contender for a home theater enthusiast’s collection.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.