Director: Jack Clough
Screenplay by: Steve Stamp, Allan Mustafa, Asim Chaudhry, Hugo Chegwin and Lily Brazier
Starring: Allan Mustafa, Hugh Chegwin, Asim Chaudhry, Steve Stamp and Dan Sylvester
A sitcom being adapted to the big screen rarely goes well. It’s hard to expand something that is usually twenty to thirty minutes and stretch it to ninety minutes, or sometimes even longer. Something is just lost in it and most of the them outstay the welcome massively. Thankfully People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.
Kurupt.fm are back. Three years after their radio station shut down, they discover that their single has become a big hit in Japan after playing on one of the biggest TV shows in the country. The band and their manager head to Tokyo to potentially sign a record deal and finally make their dreams come true. It’s not long after they arrive that it becomes clear that the price of fame is higher than what they were expecting.
Big in Japan follows in the footsteps of This is Spinal Tap and Popstar: Never stop Never Stopping as a mockumentary following terrible musicians who believe they are something greater than what they are. The comedy comes from their awkward and often eye wateringly cringe-filled interactions. Big in Japan takes this one step further by taking the film to another country, so adding a little Lost in Translation into the mix. That’s not just because they are in Japan, they struggle with the customs, can’t communicate very well and at one point end up on a TV show they don’t understand.
This is a funny film that has plenty of jokes. If you’re a fan of TV shows like The Office or films like Spinal Tap, then there is something here for you. Most of the comedy comes from the character’s ignorance of Japan as well as their naivety around the music business. Their manager, played by Asim Choudhry, has never achieved everything, and starts the film by selling his van, that he’s also been living in, to join them in Japan. His attempts to take control and clashes with the management from Tokyo, is funny and awkward to watch. A specific scene where he’s buying new clothes is as cringe-inducing as a David Brent moment.
The film may play with some stereotypes about Japan, with the serious salarymen and bizarre gameshows, but it never tries to ridicule the culture. The characters, in their own idiotic way try to honour the customs, even if they don’t quite understand them. For example they take their shoes off every time they enter a building, even when they’re told they don’t have to. Matthew Wicks deserves a lot of praise for some great cinematography that captures the small backstreets of Tokyo and contrasts them with the sprawling neon-lit main streets. Tokyo looks gorgeous and if you’re dragged along to the film and hate the comedy at least you can enjoy the setting.
A lot of this film feels like you’ve seen it before. The main plot centres around how far the band are willing to go to make it and how much of themselves will they lose along the way. It’s predictable and doesn’t do anything that’s unexpected. The comedy is there, but there’s no real stand-out moments that you’ll be quoting while leaving the cinema with your friends. It pales in comparison to Life on the Road, the follow-up film to The Office, that walks a similar plot but with a surprising amount of heart.
There’s a nice sub-plot about Steeves (Steve Stamp) and a budding romance with Miki, the translator who follows the group around. It’s really the little things that stand out in the film, their romance, the reaction shots of Decoy (Dan Sylvester) who looks just as awkward as you’ll feel and culture shock of Japan. The main plot feels fairly familiar and doesn’t really do anything that unexpected.
Long-term fans and newcomers alike should find something to like in Big in Japan. It’s not a fantastic film by any stretch, but there’s some laughs to be had. If anything it might bring more people to watch the original show.