Matt Damon in Omaha
Omaha World-Herald

Alexander Payne’s next movie is already building some buzz, nine months ahead of its release.

Tuesday at the theater-owners convention CinemaCon, Paramount screened 10 minutes of footage from “Downsizing,” and audiences were reportedly blown away.

Payne’s sci-fi dramedy, parts of which were shot in Omaha last year, opens nationwide Dec. 22, a prime spot for movies seeking awards consideration.

“Downsizing,” starring Matt Damon, has been in the works for more than a decade. Payne and his writing partner, Jim Taylor, started the earliest version of the script in 2006. The film faced a few false starts along the way.

“It’s a movie that imagines what might happen if, as a solution to overpopulation and climate change, Norwegian scientists discover how to shrink organic material,” Payne said in an interview last spring. “The scientists propose to the world a 200- to 300-year transition from big to small as the only humane and inclusive solution to our biggest problem.”

In the film, Damon and Kristen Wiig play a married couple who decide to shrink themselves as a cost-saving measure.

The scale of the concept is new territory for the Omaha Oscar-winner, as are the bigger budget and heavy use of special effects.

In the clip screened at CinemaCon, Damon and Wiig attend a presentation about living the good life as a tiny person. An already-shrunk character played by Neil Patrick Harris makes the sales pitch. He lives in a dollhouse-sized mansion with his wife (played by Laura Dern). They get to live like kings for almost no money at all.

The convention clip also gave viewers the first look on what the shrinking process will look like. It apparently looks fantastic.

The Wrap reported that “the auditorium erupted in laughter at certain points throughout the clip, especially when the little miniature people came out of the shrinking machine. When the clip concluded, the audience cheered.”

Responses were across-the-board positive:

Variety: “‘Downsizing’ is something different entirely. It’s funny, to be sure, but it’s also Payne’s first foray into science fiction. Think of it as ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’ with a deeper social message.”

The Playlist: “Let’s be clear, Alexander Payne’s ‘Downsizing’ … was literally jaw-dropping. In a visual style and dramatic tone that is the most Kubrick-esque of his career, Payne screened what is effectively the first 10 minutes of the film. To say it’s one of the more original pieces of work I’ve seen in years is an understatement.”

Hollywood Elsewhere: “(The) CinemaCon preview of ‘Downsizing’ was awesome, brilliant, hilarious, sad and a tiny bit scary — an obvious Best Picture contender.”

The local reviews are good so far, too. Representatives of Aksarben Cinema got to see the footage. They said it’s amazing.

It’s of course impossible to judge a film on 10 minutes. But given the quality of Payne’s past work, the talent attached here, the warm reception the clip received and the prime holiday release Paramount is giving the film, this is one to maybe mark on your calendar.