Frank's Faves: Shrinking movies

Frank's Faves: Shrinking movies

"'What a curious feeling!' said Alice; 'I must be shutting up like a telescope.' ... She felt a little nervous about this; 'for it might end, you know,' said Alice to herself, 'in my going out altogether, like a candle.'" — "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"

At my stage of life, every visit to the doctor any more is sort of a metaphorical spin of the Roulette Wheel of Fate. Guys my age, I'm told, are at increasing risk for all sorts of medical bad news.

Which is why, these days, it takes a particularly persistent and worsening level of discomfort to have myself checked out — even though, once I do, whatever the trouble has been is generally speedily diagnosed and successfully treated, and that should be it; I'm good to go.

Except that's only half of the expected outcome — especially when you put off visits to the doctor until absolutely forced to. That's because, after whatever I made the appointment for is taken care of with a prescription or two, there comes the "oh, by the way" moment. Kind of like final report card time. The test results are in, and those that were run for one malady can often unexpectedly reveal another. At least, that's what I'm always dreading while sitting in the examination room for my follow-up visit.

Oddly enough, I got just such an "oh, by the way" result at my last doctor visit, but that wasn't the bad news I brought home with me that day. The "oh, by the way" was the discovery of a minor medical condition that bears watching in the future, but isn't anything that warrants undue worry now or even any drastic changes in diet or lifestyle.

As I said, that wasn't the bad news. That came right before I entered the examination room when the nurse weighed and measured me and concluded I am officially 5-foot-11. Even.

Why is that bad news? Because since I graduated from high school, and on every driver's license ever since, I have been just a hair shy of 6 feet tall. Not 5-foot-11-and-three-quarters, mind you, but just on the underside of the 6-foot line. So, naturally, I've always just rounded it off to 6 feet and told folks that's what I am.

Except, I'm not any more. I'm a full inch short of that 6-foot mark now. My stature has officially peaked and is now headed in the other direction. There is a full inch less of me than there was.

Oh my God, I'm shrinking!

Well, at least vertically ... but the good news is, if gravity is gaining the upper hand and I'm actually growing smaller, I'm in good company, anyway. From English folklore's Tom Thumb and Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina to Marvel Comics' Ant-Man, literature and cinema have given us all sorts of heroic characters who have found themselves looking up — way, way up — at what is really not a small world after all when you're the size of a "Monopoly" piece.

Hopefully, my height isn't diminishing rapidly enough that I'll ever share that perspective, but you never know. Just in case, though, I have at least a handful of examples among my favorite movies to look up to (so to speak) as I head into what can now quite literally be described as my declining years. All I can say is don't look down, folks, unless it's to avoid stepping on me and:


— "Ant-Man" (2015). I must admit, as a comic book-loving kid, I was never much impressed with this tiny crime-fighting superhero, but this movie from Disney and Marvel Studios made a believer out of me. Of course, the nifty CGI effects have a lot to do with that, but perhaps just as crucial is Paul Rudd's performance as a thief recruited by scientist Michael Douglas to wear his shrinking suit and defend the technology. While the suit grants Rudd size-shifting abilities, superhuman strength at any size and telepathic control over insects, it also carries the risk of his disappearing into a subatomic quantum realm if he goes too far — a dilemma even Alice in Wonderland can appreciate. Which, of course, means that's exactly what he has to do to defeat the villain and save the day. Without giving away too much, I think you can assume it turns out OK since the sequel is due out this summer. Looking forward to it!

— "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" (1989). Speaking of sequels, this sci-fi family comedy was such an unexpected hit that it spawned two sequels and a TV show and became the highest-grossing live-action Disney film ever at the time. The visual effects and the humor are both top-notch, as is Rick Moranis as the crackpot inventor of an electromagnetic shrinking machine who accidentally downsizes his and his neighbors' kids to a quarter-inch tall and throws them out with the trash, before getting to deliver the classic and oft-parodied title line.

— "Innerspace" (1987). In yet another sci-fi comedy, this one from director Joe Dante and executive producer Steven Spielberg, Dennis Quaid stars as a naval aviator who volunteers for a secret miniaturization experiment and winds up injected into an unsuspecting hypochondriac grocery store clerk, played by Martin Short. Of course, it's Short's manic, slapstick response to having a manned, microscopic submersible cruising around his bloodstream and communicating with him internally, that provides most of the film's laughs, but the visual effects were also good enough to win an Oscar, the only film by Dante ever to do so.

— "Alice in Wonderland" (1951, 1999 & 2010). There have been many film adaptations of Lewis Carroll's fantasy novel, and these three are my faves for different reasons — brilliantly animated, all-star casted or cleverly reimagined. But all three offer memorable scenes of Alice alternately shrinking and growing depending on what labeled treat presents itself. Clearly, it's an absolutely essential part of the story, however it's told, with good reason. The girl is way too oral compulsive. Not to mention trusting of things marked "eat me."

— "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957). Undoubtedly the darkest film on this list, but also the most cerebral, stars Grant Williams as a man who is exposed to a radioactive cloud while boating and soon finds himself growing progressively smaller. The black-and-white effects are adequate, if a bit dated now, but the story leaves a lasting impression in that it doesn't take the easy way out. In the end, science can't help the title hero, and yet he faces the prospect of shrinking to subatomic size and even smaller realms with a sense of wonder and adventure, concluding that no matter how small he becomes, he will still matter in the universe because, to God, "there is no zero." That's some heavy sci fi, folks.

Topics (2):Film, Television