Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment
are going to remake the classic 1957 Incredible Shrinking Man as a comedy
vehicle for Eddie Murphy . . .
If I were Eddie Murphy I would however think twice about
signing on for this particular project.
Science fiction-related comedies
don’t seem to be good for Murphy’s career. His Adventures of Pluto Nash
was a huge box office disaster and Murphy’s latest movie,
Meet Dave (previously called Starship
Dave – a much better title to our mind), also bombed at the busy U.S.
box office this summer.
It would seem that if Murphy doesn’t make fun of
fat people (Norbit, The Nutty Professor movies) then he’s a
dud at the box office and audiences simply don’t care. Maybe Murphy’s
shrinking man should start off as an incredibly obese person then – who
Interestingly enough the original movie on which
Incredible Shrinking Man will be “based” wasn’t a comedy at all. In
fact it was a rather deadly serious movie based on a novel by Richard
Matheson (I Am Legend,
Somewhere in Time). Matheson also
wrote the screenplay for the movie. In it actor Grant Williams plays Scott
Carey, an Aryan Everyman replete with blonde hair and bland ‘Fifties
leading man looks.
The movie kicks off with Carey and his wife Louise
(Randy Stuart) on a boating trip whilst on vacation. While she goes below
decks to fetch him a beer, the boat passes through a mysterious mist. A
few weeks later Carey finds that either his wife keeps on picking up the
wrong clothes at the drycleaners – or that he is actually physically
shrinking in size. Point is, his clothes no longer fit him. Carey’s GP is skeptical that Carey is actually getting smaller, but after a few more
weeks the evidence is inescapable: Carey is indeed slowly shrinking.
It’s like a Kafkaesque nightmare for Carey. Soon the six
foot five Carey is actually shorter than his petite blonde wife.
Scientists come up with a possible cure – which seems to work for a while,
but then Carey regresses again and keeps on shrinking until he is about
the size of a toy soldier! One night after an argument – this turn of
events has really sullied Carey’s general mood – Carey’s wife goes out to
buy some stuff at the local supermarket. She however accidentally lets
their pet cat in, who takes an immediate interest in Carey and tries to
eat him. Carey manages to escape, but winds up in the basement of his
"Shrinking to miniscule size was apparently something to be taken very
seriously back in the 1950s . . ."
His wife returns, and after looking for him everywhere
(but the basement) gives him up for dead. Meanwhile Carey is shrinking
even faster now and, as if being threatened by the house cat wasn’t bad
enough, he now has to use a needle to protect himself from a tarantula
spider! Life in the basement below becomes one long Darwinian struggle for
survival as Carey not only battles household insects, but has to somehow
find food, water and shelter. That the basement gets flooded at one point
also doesn’t help. This last segment of
Incredible Shrinking Man is a particularly grueling slog to sit
In later years Hollywood movies would treat the whole
“shrinking” business as a plot device for fast-paced family comedies such
as Innerspace and
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The last
Hollywood flick to give the concept the serious treatment was the 1966
Fantastic Voyage movie starring Raquel
Welch. It would seem that growing to miniscule sizes after being affected
by a mysterious mist of unknown origin was something to be taken much more
seriously back in the 1950s than it is today! Maybe one can view The
Incredible Shrinking Man as a metaphor for alienation. After all, it
shares several elements with Franz Kafka’s 1915 short story Metamorphosis
about a man who awakes one morning to discover that he has turned into a giant cockroach
However whereas the protagonist of Kafka’s novella is
scorned and rejected by his family and friends, Carey’s wife and brother
never really desert him. Which is why if you’re nasty you can say that
Incredible Shrinking Man is a metaphor for emasculated masculinity
a patriarchy threatened by encroaching feminism. Take your pick.
all Carey becomes completely dependent on his wife for his survival,
something that must have gnawed from the the ‘Fifties viewpoint of the
husband as breadwinner and provider. At one point she even keeps Carey on
in a doll’s house, dressing him in dolls’ clothes!
When Carey asked his wife to fetch him a beer at the
beginning of the movie, she - unlike a good and obedient ‘Fifties
housewife is supposed to do – actually refuses! Only after good-naturedly
cajoling her, does she relent. In their relationship (they have no
children) they come across as equals. It is almost as if the movie is
saying “look what happens when you don’t keep women under your thumb!”
Ultimately Carey escapes into the garden outside, but he
now shrinks into nothingness. The movie ends on a weird religious epilogue
typical of movies of the era. It is somewhat similar to the whole
invaders-have-no-immunity” ending of the original 1953 movie version of
H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.
It goes like: “God loves all His creatures no matter how small and no
matter whom He caused to shrink to subatomic particle size.”
Of course no Hollywood exec in his (or her) right mind
will make a straightforward remake of The Incredible Shrinking Man
today; not a bad idea in itself as the special effects – even though they
are cleverly done – are quite dated today. It is only obvious that they
would want to turn it into a comedy especially when one considers the
family-friendly box office success of Disney’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
In the Murphy project Carey will be a famous Las Vegas magician who is put
under a spell that causes him to shrink. He must find a way to reverse the
spell before he gets so small that he “disappears.”
By the way, if it is any indication of what kind of
movie to expect, the remake once had Little Man / Scary Movie
director Keenen Ivory Wayans attached, but now has
X-Men 3 / Rush Hour director Brett Ratner
sitting in the director’s chair . . .