Get tiny, live large: That’s the gonzo promise offered by a miracle medical procedure designed to turn humans into thumb-size versions of their former selves, and let them reap hefty financial and ecological rewards in return. Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) isn’t a hard sell; a schlubby model of midlife mediocrity, he’s already sleepwalking through a dead-end job and a listless marriage to the underwhelming Audrey (Kristen Wiig). So when an old high school classmate (Jason Sudeikis) extols the wonders of joining the .0364 percent, he sees only opportunity. Why not live in a world where a matchbox could be a mansion, and diamonds are literally as big as the Ritz?
Director Alexander Payne (Nebraska, Election, About Schmidt) specializes in a kind of deadpan heartland absurdity, but he’s never delved into anything nearly as fantastical as this. Though the little-people terrarium of Leisureland may not be what Paul had hoped, it’s also where he learns to stop worrying and love the small, thanks to his hedonist neighbor (Christoph Waltz) and a left-field romance with Vietnamese dissident Ngoc (Hong Chau, bossy and funny and refreshingly oblivious to lip gloss). The result is a dadaist swirl of satire, pie-eyed whimsy, and speculative futurism — like Gulliver’s Travels through the wrong end of a telescope. B+