People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan – Film Review
by Hugh Maguire
Director – Jack Clough
Writers – Lily Brazier(additional material), Asim Chaudhry(contributing writer), Allan Mustafa
Stars – Asim Chaudhry, Lily Brazier, Allan Mustafa
In the 1990s, New Zealand television ran a series of wry advertisements for a soft drink produced on the Coromandel Peninsula township of Paeroa. Lemon & Paeroa, or L&P, was as the punchline put it ‘world-famous in New Zealand.’ Something of the same world-famous locally mindset underpins this warm-hearted, wittily-scripted, tongue-in-cheek romp. It is a mockumentary of the musical variety – one thinks of This is Spinal Tap (1984), nearly forty years old, but matched on UK television by excellent mockumentaries such as Twenty Twelve on the Olympics (2012), among others. Emerging from one such series this film follows the fortunes of ‘big time’ Rap group Kurupt FM, big in Brentford and possibly in Ipswich.
By a twist of fate their ‘hit’, not only their one hit but their one number, is being used on a hugely successful game show in Japan and the boys are to be whisked over to star at a mega-concert with all the trappings of making it in the big time. Of course, there are compromises, as what went down in Brentford may not tick the boxes in downtown Tokyo. So the group is to be re-styled and re-branded for the local market, having to wear outrageous costumes and learn quirky dance moves, so at variance with their East London cool. We follow them on their voyage of discovery and more importantly self-discovery, which is the underpinning strength of the film.
On one level it is a ‘Lads Movie’ and it is probably not terribly WOKE but the humour is never cruel and it is not one of these films where ‘isn’t everything strange out foreign.’ Indeed everything foreign seems smart, sophisticated and luxurious and if there is humour to be had it’s at the expense of the lads from Blighty and their theretofore limited world view. The humour is not without serious intent and we can stop to consider the culture where people only live through selfies and Instagram posts and we might also consider the cost of fame and what compromises can be made, all much-travelled ground admittedly. It is self-mocking and all the better for that and striking to note how humour has evolved in the face of Brexit and other such political-cultural developments, a critique perhaps in an oblique way of a delusional sense of grandeur and importance on a world stage.