Tag Archives: Lily Tomlin

The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Suburban housewife gets smaller.

Pat Kramer (Lily Tomlin) is a housewife/mother raising two rambunctious kids (Shelby Balik, Justin Dana) while married to Vance (Charles Grodin) who works in advertising. After being exposed to some products from her husband’s company she begins to shrink until she becomes so small that she is forced to move into a dollhouse and drink out of thimble since a regular glass would be too big for her to hold.

The film is a modern remake of Richard Matheson’s The Incredible Shrinking Man and as much as I loved the original this version takes the storyline in a completely different direction, which for a while proves interesting. Director Joel Schumacher comes up with some wild color schemes and the knowing satire makes great points in its observations on modern suburbia as well as American consumerism. Screenwriter Jane Wagner manages to employ some well thought out scenarios and the special effects aren’t bad either.

Unfortunately by the second-half becomes muddled with scenarios that are no longer funny, but genuinely horrifying and sad instead. The satirical edge gets lost and replaced with an over-the-top mad-scientist-trying-to-conquer-the world angle that becomes cheesy.  I was also confused with how Pat was able to continue to find clothes to fit her especially after she gets smaller than even a toy doll. The film seemed to touch on every other possible problem, so they should’ve had at the very least had a throwaway scene analyzing this one.

Spoiler Alert!

The ending gets too cute for its own good as Pat shrinks to nothing and then has what’s left of the small outfit she was wearing fall into a puddle of spilled chemicals, which somehow makes her big again. This however ruins the poignancy that had been created from showing clips of bells being rung around the world from different countries in remembrance of Pat, which had a certain profound message that no matter how small you are you can still have an impact. Instead of giving the film some substance it goes for a last-second gimmick that cements it as being an empty-headed comedy and nothing more.

End of Spoiler Alert!

Tomlin’s performance is excellent as she creates empathy for her character, which helps make the story more engrossing as you genuinely build concern and sympathy for Pat’s welfare. Noted make-up specialist Rick Baker garnered a cult following for his convincing performance of an ape, although the shot of the animal giving some people in an elevator the finger is pushing it. The movie though as a whole works only in spurts with a message and tone that is too unfocused and inconsistent to be completely effective.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: January 30, 1981

Runtime: 1 Hour 28 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Joel Schumacher

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD-R (Universal Vault Series), Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Flirting with Disaster (1996)

flirting with disaster

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Biological versus adoptive parents.

Mel Coplin (Ben Stiller) is a middle-aged man on a mission. He wants to find out who his biological parents are and is willing to travel the country to find them. His wife Nancy (Patricia Arquette) isn’t too happy about being dragged along and his adoptive parents Ed and Pearl (George Segal, Mary Tyler Moore) find his journey to be an insult to them. He uses the aid of part-time adoption agent Tina (Tea Leoni) to try and locate them, but her help only proves to lead him to a lot dead ends.

With the exception of Leoni the three female leads are good. Lily Tomlin has a funny moment as she tries to talk down the Richard Jenkins character from a LSD trip. Moore is fantastic playing a takeoff of her rigid mother role from Ordinary People. Every scene that she is in is hilarious and had she been in a few more she could have easily stolen the film. She wears a short reddish haircut and at times looks amazingly like Carol Burnett. Although she is not all that amusing Arquette is also quite good simply because she is the most believable of all the characters. Jenkins and James Brolin also have their moments as a bickering gay couple and Brolin’s arm pit fetish is great. It is also nice to see Stiller actually doing some acting instead of just playing a dull, average guy that simply reacts to all the zaniness around him, which is what he seems to pretty much do in most of his other films.

However, the movie seems more focused on being offbeat than it does in actually being funny. There is a great deal more misses than hits and the ones that do hit aren’t exactly uproarious. Leoni’s character adds little to the proceedings and her propensity at constantly leading Mel to the wrong people gets old pretty fast. There is also a glaring goof where Segal and Moore end up driving off with Tomlin and Alan Alda’s car since both couples drive the same make and model vehicle. Yet somehow they are able to use their OWN keys to start up the other car and even get into the other car’s trunk, which would not be possible.

This film could best be summed up as being the ‘sophomore jinx’ for writer/director David O. Russell since his first feature Spanking the Monkey was quite original as was his third one I (Heart) Huckabees. This film though tends to be over-the-top absurd without having any message or point to it.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 22, 1996

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: David O. Russell

Studio: Miramax

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video