Downsizing ★★½

I haven't liked a Payne film (Paris je t'aime short aside) since About Schmidt, and that is the film of his that this most resembles. Things start solidly, with a high concept premise sold with wit and a careful, Sturges-style evisceration of American mores. Consumerism and the motivations behind altruism are the targets, and as long as Payne keeps his targets close to the hypocritical midwestern mindset, the film works. Midway through, once Damon's character has been shrunk, and the film veers into left field, growing preachy as it sets its sights even bigger. This second half is unpredictable (a strength), but its presentation of a conflict between thinking globally and acting locally is not only exceptionally contrived but becomes a total distraction from the themes of the first half of the film. While not entirely terrible (Hong Chau and Christoph Waltz earn some laughs, and Payne's ridiculous ambition is so misplaced as to be entertaining in its own right), the second half of the film seems rudderless, as if About Schmidt decided midway through to devote itself entirely to those letters from Ndugu.