‘Downsizing’ has an interesting idea but doesn’t know what to do with it

By MARK VIOLA

I love a good science-fiction story. Of course, there are an almost infinitely large variety of such tales, but one of my favorite categories is those stories in which we are shown a world much like our own, but with one difference.

One prime example in film from the past several year’s is 2013’s “Her” from writer/director Spike Jonze, which told a story about artificially intelligent operating systems becoming sentient and one man (played by Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his computer. Although the core story was this burgeoning romance, it was surrounded by a world adapting to this new normal. The film was one my favorites of that year.

That is why of the seven films that opened in theaters over the Christmas weekend, none intrigued me more than writer/director Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing.” Unfortunately, while the film delivers exactly what I was hoping for in its first act, the story begins to lose steam in the second act and seemingly abandons everything in the third to finish with a dissatisfying whimper.

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