April 11, 2007

THE WORLD SINKS EXCEPT JAPAN (2006) disastrous comedy

(2006, Japan, IMDB: Nihon igai zenbu chinbotsu)

Region 3 Hong Kong NTSC DVD (Panorama)

Not recommended at all

From Minoru Kawasaki, Japan's prolific director of low-budget movie comedy, comes this cheeky item lampooning last summer's blockbuster movie The Sinking of Japan
(reviewed here). Even the poster is a parody. Actually the film is an adaption of a novel that parodied the original Japan Sinks book. Okay...

The premise supposes that Japan is left floating, when every other country sinks beneath the oceans. Scientifically silly, it's basically a reversal of the plotline of The Submersion of Japan in order to concentrate on the implications for Japan's immigration policies. Currently very strict, Japan is shown here allowing in state leaders and their favourite film stars from Hollywood, but adopting brutally strict laws to keep out everyone else.

To keep the humour current, the characters are updated with lookalikes of Kim Jong-Il, and film stars Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. But the resemblances are fleeting and the resultant comedy value is wasted. In fact, most of the comic potential is wasted, by not lampooning the movie further. The old scientist who bores everyone with his endless tectonic explanations should have been funny, but was just boring instead!

I was expecting much better from the director of The Calamari Wrestler, which is fantastic. But I think the humour here leans too heavily on politics, as well as the comedy value of TV star cameos, which were all lost on me.

Obviously, this might all be very funny to Japanese viewers, but I usually 'get' their comedies easily. Also, the controversial nature of the bad taste humour here (like dealing with foreigners with flame-throwers) obviously distances gaijin viewers even more. It probably looked a lot better on paper.

The low budget is so low, that a paltry few computer graphics, mostly looking like weather maps, show us the world sinking. Most of the rest of the film takes place in a small bar, which we are supposed to believe is swanky enough for the world's richest people.

But I'd overlook all this if there were laughs, or even a story. The Calamari Wrestler had a surprisingly strong story, besides the fun of showing a large squid mixing in everyday society. The World Sinks Except Japan is sunk by it's largely international cast who can't act for toffee, let alone perform comedy. As always, the Japanese actors playing the journalists and the Prime Minister are good, but any non-Japanese actors are pretty embarrassing.

For me The Calamari Wrestler (reviewed here) shows that Kawasaki can do better, but I'll be approaching the rest of his films with caution in the future. They certainly all look promising, with 'high concept' ideas - Kani the Goalkeeper Crab, Executive Koala, and Wig Detective...

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