Anyone who turns into a monster when they’ve had one too many will relate to “Colossal,” a getting-your-act-together movie residing somewhere between “Godzilla” and “28 Days.”
Nacho Vigalondo’s follow-up to “Extraterrestrial” absorbs the best qualities of both kaiju-inflected creature features and romantic recovery dramas, resulting in a strange hybrid that’s very much its own beast. Anne Hathaway stars as Gloria, a well-meaning mess who hasn’t yet hit rock bottom but is well on her way — an up-and-down process Vigalondo charts with pathos and wit.
It begins with a brief prologue set in Seoul, where a little girl finds her Barbie-like doll in a park before a skyscraper-tall behemoth appears out of the ether, an event that we’ll later learn was passed off as urban legend. Now, 25 years later, our oft-hungover heroine finds herself not only broken up with but broke, period. She leaves her big-city apartment to head back home, where long nights at a bar owned by childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) bar turn her into some kind of monster. At the same time, wouldn’t you know it, a familiar face returns to Seoul.
It so happens that the gargantuan creature is a sort of avatar mimicking Gloria’s movements on a much larger, deadlier scale. (“I killed a shitload of people because I was acting like a drunk idiot again,” she laments after realizing what’s happened.) For lore-related reasons that don’t become clear until near film’s end, it only happens when she’s standing in a certain park at exactly 8:05 a.m. local time.
Hathaway, whose supposed “likability” issue has long been among the most mean-spirited narratives in Hollywood, shrinks her larger-than-life presence down to size even as her monstrous avatar remains at large on the other side of the globe. Constantly on the edge of derailment, she’s one bad night away from officially being a trainwreck — the kind that, through a mix of charm and beauty, no one around her can stop watching. Hathaway vacillates between big moments and fleeting gestures, and is in top form in both modes.
Sudeikis, meanwhile, is wisely cast against type as a “nice guy” who gradually reveals his true colors (none of them bright or cheerful). A good drinking buddy doesn’t necessarily a good person make, and so it is here. The boyfriend Gloria just broke up with, played by Dan “Cousin Matthew” Stevens, is no peach either; dating back longer than we know, the men in Gloria’s life appear to have been a more toxic influence on her life than was her actually being under the influence.
The response from those uninvolved with the catastrophic happenings in Seoul, seen from afar on the news, is just what you’d expect: military action is considered, world leaders are unsure what to do, locals are utterly panicked. Vigalondo resists the urge to turn “Colossal” into a full-on end-of-the-world drama, instead keeping the focus on his main ensemble.
Like most watching disaster footage on TV, these characters are chiefly concerned with how this might affect them. Controlling yourself can be difficult enough, even and especially when stumbling can result in the death of thousands; controlling anyone or anything else, especially if that person doesn’t want to be helped, is all but impossible.
For as strange and clever as all this is, none of it would work were “Colossal” not so consistent with its own internal logic. Or if it weren’t so funny: Vigalondo excels most of all in the back-and-forth banter that typifies Gloria’s hazy nights and hungover mornings. We all know a someone like her, and Hathaway makes Gloria feel familiar and unique all at once. The same can be said of “Colossal” itself, which lives up to its title without losing sight of small-scale human drama.