Hello ladies and gentlemen, Muldoon here with this week’s “incredible” edition of WTF HOLLYWOOD?
And the WTF film in question?
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING WOMAN
While there are plenty of perplexingly bizarre Hollywood films out there that I’ll be highlighting here, I thought I’d give this particular film the spotlight since quite a few of you fine folks strongly suggested it. So it hopped to the head of the line. Boom. Democracy in action, and class is now in session, because let me tell you guys and gals (shrinking or otherwise), this movie totally fit the bill.
So here we go…
In case the title is too puzzling, the film’s actually about what happens when an “average housewife” gets exposed to some kooky mix of chemicals and begins to shrink. It’s kind of like THINNER, but without all the disturbing voodoo jazz and based on actual hard people-shrinking science.
Though it’s more accurately like 1957’s THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN…the movie and its’ book basis by Richard “I AM LEGEND” Matheson, since this is kind of a remake or whatever…naturally they’d share similarities. Though one they can’t claim is a shrieking female protagonist this time out! HOW RADICAL AND INGENIUS! A woman!?
The film stars the woman Lily Tomlin (I HEART HUCKABEES), Charles Grodin (of BEETHOVEN fame), joker-lookalike John Glover (SCROOGED), Elizabeth Wilson (THE BIRDS), and Ned Beatty (DELIVERANCE) and is directed by fan favorite, old batnipples himself…Joel Shumacher (FALLING DOWN), who clearly paved the way for Batman with the bulldozer that is Lilly Tomlin.
Anyway on top of that cast, the flick’s got the legendary Rick Baker in a gorilla suit. Yeah you read that correctly, the special effects legend is in this the same year (’81) he made cinematic magic with John Landis (who was originally going to direct SHRINKING WOMAN) on AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. That’s like holding geek gold in one hand, with (fill in the blank) in the other. But with all of those wonderfully talented big dogs, we’re gifted with this oddly shaped gem.
IT GOES LIKE THIS… Lily Tomlin plays “Pat Kramer” a white bread housewife who’s purpose in life is taking care of her two kids, having dinner ready when her husband comes home, and helping her husband drum up names for products at his corporate job. Pat’s not even alone in her homemaking duties as we can’t forget “Concepcion,” the Kramer’s foxy nanny/maid/cook/servant who doesn’t speak a lick of English (we’ll get more into that a little later…) and is constantly seen cleaning or taking care of the kiddos…
Anyway, Pat’s loving husband, Charles Grodin brings home a new perfume for he and Pat to name, which ends up getting called “Sex Pot” before they make sexytime with their kids listening in on the other side of the door (with some spot on 80’s glorious porn music bumping)… The next day Pat begins to shrink. We then find out that the company her hubby works for is actually controlled by an evil think tank of creepers who drink milk and play backgammon (I shit you not). When they catch wind of Pat’s condition, they immediately strike up a plan to capitalize on it by shrinking everyone in the world. But first they must experiment on Pat to figure out exactly how she’s shrinking (even knowing it involves household products).
The rest of the film consists of:
- An enormous multitude of old school effects shots. More forced perspectives and optical fun than you can imagine.
- Insanely cartooned-out production design. Think Tim Burton’s suburbia in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, or his set from BEETLEJUICE
- Hilariously unintentional(?) second-rate citizenship banter from practically everyone to “Concepcion”
- The late great Henry Gibson doing what he did best, playing a creepy doctor who will give your kids nightmares
- Little nuggets of “WTF?” (Like when she’s leaving the hospital type building and two armed men drag a person in a box up the steps while screaming bloody murder)
- Lily Tomlin getting snuck out of a grocery store in a grocery bag by a character (who she also plays, NORBIT style!)
- Lily Tomlin paving the way for the future antics of Rick Baker and Eddie Murphy by taking three roles in the movie for no apparent, enjoyable reason.
- A potty doll named “Betsy Wetsy” urinates all over Tomlin
- At one point when her family believes her to be dead, they have a funeral for her – in their backyard – with a matchbox – and it’s only the immediate family. WTF is up with that? That’s like “Yeah, so she was a kickass mom and wife for 30 years, but in the last week she’s gotten super short. Can’t find the body, so let’s just bury a matchbox in the backyard and call it a day, deal?” Time for tacos with our Hispanic maid stereotype.
- Rick Baker plays a gorilla who’s addicted to pain killers and flips off bad guys while in daring elevator shaft escapes.
So there’s a taste of the flick. Considering how ahead of its time it was, it just feels like a remake is right around the corner with say…Tina Fey or someone similar next in line (or heaven forbid, Katherine Heigl) to get shrunkified. (Come to think of it… that’s an amazing idea, though now with Andy Serkis as the Gorilla and …. Million dollar idea there guys). Seriously though, the film’s fun in the most goofiest of ways and there are enough tiny blips of “WTF?” sprinkled throughout to really enjoy. I could be mistaken, but I believe the shopping cart from the flick is still sitting on the back lot of Universal and is one of the wacky props/set dressing they have displayed near the boat from MCHALE’S NAVY.
Is this a shit movie? Not at all, shit isn’t nearly as amusing. Is it weird as hell? You bet your ass. Would I watch it with my kids? If I had some, sure. If you’ve got an extra 88 minutes and want to have a good time while scratching your head, it’s up on NETFLIX INSTANT. OR if you feel like your DVD collection is screaming at you to buy it, here it is.
Next week’s movie’s title alone is a massive WTF…
As always, feel free to shoot me any ideas you might have for a future WTF Hollywood column (just put “WTF” in the subject line somewhere) or if you were at all a part of the production on this film and feel like chatting – I’d love the opportunity to talk with you!