The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)

Director: Joel Schumacher

Starring: Lily Tomlin, Charles Grodin, Ned Beatty

Release date: January 30 (US). Stitching my booze-soiled notes together for this one. I had to split the movie up over two nights because I don’t think my sides would have survived the resulting laugh riot otherwise. May contain sarcasm and spoilers…

Like I care about spoiling this. After her husband spills some new perfume all over her, Pat Kramer starts to shrink. It’s incredible. At first it’s all a lot of fun as fame and notoriety follow. However, the lack of an antidote is a cause for concern; if they don’t find one she’s going to fade away to nothing. Result! Pat’s plight is noted by the Organisation For World Management who claim to want to help her. Oh, no they don’t; they want to create a liquid that will shrink the population of the World! The reason why they want to do this escapes me and I’m not re-watching the flick to find out. You watch it and tell me. In fact, don’t. I don’t care.

Joel Schumacher? What, the Joel Schumacher? Really? What we have here is satire, a hard hitting statement on consumerism and the obscene power of marketing. Maybe not that hard hitting but it’s in there somewhere. The Incredible Shrinking Fail begins with a male voice on the soundtrack as the credits roll – “Is that good or is that… (mmph)… well why don’t you put the whole thing in your mouth…” Hah, fooled you, nothing to do with oral sex! It’s really a bloke selling a new food product outside a supermarket. He goes on to force feed crackers to two fat blobby bastards who happen by…

“Mmmm, tastes like real Cheddar cheese! (blobs look disappointed) You don’t think it does? You really don’t?”


“It doesn’t? Well, what does it taste like?”


See, looks like a toothpaste commercial, very clever...

No, wait, it gets even funnier. Vance Kramer (Charles Grodin) works at some swish product developer and keeps coming home with new stuff. Like Galaxy Glue, which he uses to mend a broken vase (that’s varz, not vayz) at a party. But what’s really funny is, right, everyone gets the glue on them and each time somebody goes to help somebody else get unglued, yeh, they get glued too until about a dozen people are all glued together – sort of a forerunner to Human Centipede, but not. It’s feckin hilarious. Vance also brings home a new perfume. He hasn’t named it yet so he asks his wife, Pat (Lily Tomlin – she plays 3 characters in this frightful honk) to think of something. She comes up with Sexpot. Vance thinks that’s a wonderful idea and celebrates by accidentally spilling some on Pat’s dress. Later, we see the discarded dress glowing and whatnot. Uh-oh. Pat was wearing that dress. Duh-duh-duuuuuurrrrr!

Ned's having a 'Deliverance' flashback...

As per the title, Pat begins to shrink incredibly. She and Vance go along to the Kleinman Institute for tests where she’s under the scrutiny of Dr. Eugene Nortz (Henry Gibson). I’ll just take a moment to mention his assistant, this is really funny, coz her name is Dr. Ruth Ruth (Elizabeth Wilson). See? She’s called Ruth, but her second name is Ruth as well. Comedy. Genius. Anyway, after a medical test-montage, Nortz announces that all the products Vance is peddling are causing Pat-face to shrink and they depart hoping a cure will be discovered. Oh, little do they know… Little! I made a funny too! On departing, we see two people carrying a box up the steps and screaming coming from inside it. But, and this is why it’s dead, dead funny, Pat and Vance don’t even notice, like it’s normal. The screaming goes on for ages as well; the longer the screaming goes on, the funnier the scene gets until you’ll be ROLF-ing your face off. Actually I’ve typed that wrong – ‘rolling on the laughing floor’? That’s quite funny also, I’ll leave it in. But the joke’s on you, see, coz Schumacher is employing subtext, he’s saying that you’re so wrapped up in your own consumerist paradise you can’t see the more worser problems around you. That’s what he’s saying, right there. Shame on you for chortling. Alternatively, Schuey can’t even spell feckin subtext.

Die, you shrinking freak! Die! Die! Die!

If you didn’t think The Incredible Shrinking Hope could get any funnier then strap yerself into the ROLF-rocket and prepare the needle and thread coz you are going to split your feckin abdomen. Pat, by now particularly miniscule, slapsticks her way into a toy cupboard. That’s achingly amusing by itself but, get this, she stumbles against a doll and pulls the ‘activate’ cord whereupon the realistic baby does a wee-wee on her and it’s like a jet-wash. And you thought a weeing Transformer was good! Comedy. Gold. Then during dinner, right, Pat’s drinking champers out of a thimble and getting sloshed. But when tipsy Vance tries to give her a fill-up, he pours the bubbly over her instead, talking Niagara Falls; she’s soaked! But wait, we’re not done here, sit the feck back down… She’s hardly recovered from the first drowning when he offers her another top-up… and the same thing happens again! I was on the (laughing) floor by this point, beating the carpet with my fists. But the laughs keep coming; straight after, he gifts her a sexy nightdress. Pat’s moved, so moved she dons the garment and sets out to scale the bed to reach her hubby. Quite what she’s intending to do once she gets up there I wouldn’t like to imagine. At the most she might be able to deliver an adequate hand-job but there’d be a real danger of her ending up stuck to the ceiling. Anyhow, it takes some doing but she makes it onto a pillow… and Vance turns over, his arm flops down on the pillow and she catapults off the bed, onto a skateboard which then careers into a doll house! Honestly, if you’re intending to watch this movie, you will need oxygen cylinders stacked by your chair. And the bit where teensy-Pat has a drag on a GIANT cigarette… I’ll just leave that image with you. Mirth-tastic.

The Gorilla Of Gloom

But, then the movie takes a dramatic left turn and becomes seriouser. Pat falls into the waste disposal unit. This is not funny at all. In fact it’s downright unsafe. The housekeeper, Concepcion (Maria Smith) is too busy dancing around the kitchen in disco pants (coz she’s had her head turned by all the attention on the house) to notice. Don’t worry, Pat manages to climb out, but crucially leaves behind a sneaker amongst the left-over gubbins. Then she gets abducted by the nefarious Organisation For World Management. Well, Concepcion sees the sneaker and freaks ouuuuut! Everybody assumes Pat has been diced and the world mourns. The nefarious Nortz and Ruth (Ruth! Heh!) have got her locked up with intent to extract the anti-shrinkage gene or something before she disappears forever. Pat learns the truth of their world domination plans and enlists the help of Rob (Mark Blankfield) the lab assistant and a gorilla named Sidney (Richard A. Baker). There’s a brilliant moment when the security force rush in to stop Pat & Co. from escaping but Rob tips a bin full of Sid’s discarded banana skins on the floor and the cops all slip on them. It’s utterly, utterly hilariossymuss… as is the resulting chase with them all running in and out of lifts, just missing each other. It’s top, you’ve got to see it.

Anyway, Pat escapes and delivers her message to the people and promptly shrinks into nothingness and her clothes blow away and land in a puddle of spilled gunk after a kerfuffle outside a supermarket… an assortment of Vance’s gunk, no less… Later, as the world joins in a candle lit vigil in her memory, Pat shows up again! And she’s normal size! But wait, what’s this? Her shoes are splitting… she’s growing!

Deep subtext; who is caged and who is really free?

I’ve told you the entire story because I don’t want you to watch The Incredible Shrinking Laugh Factor. I’ll tell you what’s good; Sid, the gorilla, a suit designed by Rick Baker. I liked the gorilla. Everything else is an insult. An insult to the audience, an insult to Richard Mathieson (original story) and an insult to The Incredible Shrinking Man. Y’know, at one point, Pat shits herself at the sight of a fake spider being dangled in the shower. It’s just a random scene chucked in, an afterthought, ‘Oooh, we simply must have an homage’. Here’s another; tiny-Pat stood by the kitchen sink yelling at her family. To give herself a bit more height she clambers onto a box. So there she is on a box, next to a sink, lecturing them… go on, what kind of a box has she chosen to stand on? If you happen to think that’s feckin funny go and stand in the feckin corner right now and don’t come out till I tell you to. Is there a message about rampant consumerism within these bright and shiny primary colours? Couldn’t give a toss. May the lice of a million irascible alpacas infest your nostrils, Schumacher, you cock socket.


This movie deserves The Rude Gorilla treatment


Cheers, folk.

ThereWolf, April 2012

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About ThereWolf

I only come out at night... mostly...

10 responses to “The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)”

  1. Xiphos0311 says :

    Galaxy Glue Galaxy Glue what in the world would we do without Galaxy Glue…

    That jingle is all I remember from this movie. At odd times I find myself humming it and I haven’t seen the movies since the mid 80’s.

  2. Droid says :

    If this movie (which I’ve never heard of) gets one out of five, I shudder to think of the film that gets the Orang of Doom.

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