by Greg Muskewitz
There was something that looked so special about the movie "Kikujiro," but whatever it was that led me to believe that in the previews, was absent in the actual movie itself. The preview emanated a sense of magic, wonder, exceitement and enthusiasm, but previews are often deceiving; I should have known better. After all, what is a youthful and slapstick and endearing comedy without a decent youth, any slap, pinch, OR sting, and no endearment? The answer is all in Takeshi Kitano's "Kikujiro."Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi) is a young elementary aged boy. School's out for summer, his seemingly only friend is going away on vacation, and the soccer season is over. His lives with his grandmother, and after by chance finding a picture of his mother, whom he hasn't seen since infancy, he uses the addresson the back to hopefully set out and find her. Masao leaves without notice, taking only his backpack and 2,000 yen. Afriad to let him go on his own, a friend of the grandmother volunteers her husband Kikujiro ("Stop acting like a gangster," she scolds him. Yeah, yeah, very funny. We get it.) who is played by Beat Takeshi, the stage name for the director. The two set off on what would be an exciting trip.
"Disney never would have released this!"
Not to spoil your fun, but that's exactly what they do: spoil your fun. The main ingrediant of fun is what makes "Kikujiro" such a toll-taking hell ride, not just for poor Masao, but for the audience as well. Immediately, the first thing Kikujiro does instead of helping Masao, is take him to bicycle races. Kikujiro bets away all the money, and blames Masao for picking the wrong riders. They scam their way into a hotel, are kicked out, and dropped off in the middle of nowhere. For two days they're standed at a bus stop. They hitch rides if they can, but are mostly neglected. (Sight gags include Kikujiro acting blind, so either he gets hit by drivers not caring, or slips and comments about how he wouldn't want to be seen in a "piece of crap car like this." I realize Japanese cinema has been influenced by our culture, but are they so latent that they are still at the same old gags as the Three Stooges used?)
"Kikujiro" quickly becomes a pain to watch. Eventually, when they find the mother, they observe her seeing off what we'd presume are her husband and daughter. (Though how oblivious is she not to notice the only two other people on a dead street?) The look of depression, bewilderment and disappointment on Masao's face are unmistakable. The whole trip was a waste and now it's time to head back in the same fashion they came. Seemingly unendable, Kikujiro abd Masao run into two Harley bikers they crossed paths with earlier. One's "Fatso" and the other "Baldy," both nicknamed for obvious reasons, but why put up with and take orders from Kikujiro, who treats them worse than the real trash in a John Waters film? What do they get out of entertaining the kid? Verbal abuse --same as everyone else. Kitano's scewed writing also leads to some falsities he faces with his mother: a brief, but purely superficial, fake and pathetic scene. He indulges commonly and constantly throughout. Anyway, what child is going to enjoy a trip where the host is continuously calling him "idiot," "moron," "stupid," "little shit," et al. and smacking him in the head?
"Kikujiro" as a movie, and Kikujiro as a character are miserable. How else are you to feel about a movie that places a child in a horrible child molestation situation, have the kid freak out over it in dreams, but then look lightly and comically at it by having Kikujiro go back to the "scary man" to have it done to him?
Admittantly, there are some laughs dealing with Kikujiro's inability to swim, his big mouth, and a tire-popping incident, but the visual use of the gags as opposed to creatively construed written situations is missing. So when Kikujiro ends the movie by telling Masao that it was a fun trip and, "we should do this again sometime," it's obvious the kid must be under some type of controlled substance because the smile on his face must mean a big paycheck. So Masao, please say no to a sequel. Not for our sake, but for your own.Final Verdict: D.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=4362&reviewer=172
originally posted: 07/10/00 10:30:55