The Incredible Shrinking Woman is a 1981 science fiction/comedy film, starring Lily Tomlin, Charles Grodin, Ned Beatty, John Glover and Elizabeth Wilson, and directed by Joel Schumacher. The film was written by Tomlin's longtime life partner and frequent collaborator, Jane Wagner. The original music score was composed by Suzanne Ciani. This film is a take-off on the 1957 science fiction classic The Incredible Shrinking Man, and credited as based on Richard Matheson's novel, The Shrinking Man.

Plot summary

Pat Kramer is an ordinary suburban housewife and mother until she gets exposed to a strange mixture of household chemicals, including "Galaxy Glue", a new product from her husband's advertising agency. Soon after, she begins to shrink which baffles scientists. As she becomes smaller and smaller, she finds it nearly impossible to fulfill her role as housewife and mother. Eventually, she becomes a celebrity of sorts, appearing on The Mike Douglas Show, and capturing the hearts of the American people. Soon she is less than a foot tall, making her a doll to her children, and forcing her to move into a dollhouse.

Pat is kidnapped by a group of mad scientists, who make it seem that she perished in the kitchen garbage disposal. The scientists plan to shrink everyone in the world by performing experiments on Pat to learn her secret. With the help of a kind young lab custodian and a super-intelligent gorilla named Sydney, she escapes. Pat shrinks to microscopic size and falls into a puddle of spilled household product chemicals - which makes her return to normal size. The film ends with Pat's homecoming. However, when her foot makes her shoe split open, the audience is led to believe Pat will continue to grow in size.

This film carries an anti-consumer message, since a collection of perfumes, cleansers, and assorted household products is what caused Pat to shrink, and some consider it an early acknowledgment of multiple chemical sensitivity disorder.

The attack on consumerism has also been associated with early criticism of the Reagan Administration and Corporate America that was present during the 1980s; however, at the time of the film's release, Reagan had only been president for ten days, and the movie was largely completed prior to Reagan winning the Presidency in November 1980.

Production notes

This was originally planned to be a 3-D film, but the idea was ultimately scrapped. Roger Ebert took special notice of the sets and color scheme in the film, as have several other reviewers since its release.


Actor Dick Wilson plays a fussy supermarket manager - much like his famous Charmin tissue TV commercial character: Mr. Whipple.

Rick Baker played Sidney the Gorilla. In 1981, he was the very first recipient of the Oscar for Best Make-Up for An American Werewolf in London when the category was first introduced. Baker's career, especially his early fascination with gorillas and his work in three movies featuring them is told in the TV documentary Gorillas: Primal Contact.

Lily Tomlin and Elizabeth Wilson previously appeared together in Nine to Five as Violet Newstead and Roz Keith, respectively. Lily Tomlin plays four characters in this film: lead character Pat Kramer, her neighbor Judith Beasley (from her Broadway shows), Tomlin's Laugh-In characters "Ernestine" (a telephone operator) and "Edith Ann" (a little girl) who wanders in the lab (shown in the TV version).

Deleted scene

A scene was cut where Pat Kramer shrinks some more while backstage at The Mike Douglas Show. Judith Beasley comes to the rescue by fashioning a tiny dress for Pat to wear from the cut sleeve of her own blouse. In the final version, Judith is shown in the studio audience with one of her sleeves missing.



  1. "Galaxy Glue" by Linda November (Billy Davis)
  2. "Little Things Mean a Lot" by Mike Douglas
  3. "Don't Tell Me Why" by the Brainiacs

See also

External links

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