Two seemingly incongruous categories — the small-scale romantic doodle and the rampaging-creature feature — are brought together in Nacho Vigalondo's Colossal, a film that never really fulfills the potential of its adventurous premise. But what could have been a barbed look at extreme narcissism, whether individual or national, is reduced to that mildest of metaphors, the road to recovery.
Colossal, Vigalondo's fourth feature, isn't too far removed from Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married (2008); both films center on a substance-abusing mess played by Anne Hathaway. In Demme's movie, the manipulative protagonist excels at toxic femininity, insisting that the whole world revolves around her. That concept is made literal in Colossal, in which the drunken antics of Hathaway's Gloria have calamitous effects on the citizens of Seoul, terrorized by a behemoth beast that, we soon learn, is the boozer's avatar.
Kicked out of the Manhattan apartment she shares with her imperious boyfriend (Dan Stevens) for one tipple too many, Gloria retreats to her hometown, a vaguely leafy Anywheresville that hints at the generalities to come. She reunites with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), an elementary-school pal who offers the jobless woman a few shifts at his bar.
Soon Gloria and her mammoth manifestation have a nemesis: Oscar and his own outsize alter-ego, a giant robot that further menaces South Korea. Their battles, at home and abroad, grow bloodier when the initially genial local guy reveals what a petty, possessive bottle-abuser he is -- a noxious misery beyond the ken of Sudeikis, incapable of conveying self-contempt. That inability to be fully contemptible also hampers Hathaway, a performer who always seems so eager for audience adoration.