Reader review by Rob Steele [AKA Mofo Rising]
DIRECTED BY: Hitoshi Matsumoto
FEATURING: Hitoshi Matsumoto
PLOT: Not-so-lovable loser transforms into significantly larger loser to battle some of the
weirdest monsters to ever threaten Japan.
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: On a purely visual level, Big Man Japan has a bizarre aesthetic that nobody else would rightly consider. Beyond that, the film’s humor is often so subtle that you don’t realize what strange territory you’ve stumbled into until it ends up battling it out on the screen in its underwear. This film is just weird.
COMMENTS: Did you ever watch Mike Myers defend the male nudity in Austin Powers by claiming that the naked male form has been a comedic stereotype in British humor for years, but you still got the sense that he just enjoyed running around naked? Well, Japanese comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto has taken Myer’s original intent and literally writ it large for the big screen. Prepare yourself for a loving CGI rendition of the male form, with every stray hair delineated and a paunch that could kill.
Matsumoto doesn’t stop there. His film, Big Man Japan, is as loving a tribute to pure loser-dom as you could hope to film. His character is the none-too-bright heir to monster fighters in an alternate-reality Japan where giant monsters attack on a regular basis. Unfortunately, while his monster-battlin’ grandfather was considered a hero, he is now a national joke, fighting inexplicably ridiculous monsters for increasingly little ratings. (His show now only airs in the wee hours of the morning.) As if being a national joke was not enough, our current Big Man manages to fail every time he is called up to bat.
Big Man Japan is a slow burn of a film. If you are familiar with celebration of wrong-headed intentions Christopher Guest has been putting out for years, you should be comfortable here. The majority or the film focuses on interviews with our loser as he is subtly confronted with his abject shame in society. Luckily for us, every twenty minutes or so, he must fight against a bizarre menagerie of monsters in CGI battles that are, to say the very least, uncomfortable.
This is an odd film. But before you throw it out, stick around for the ending. I’m not going to give it away here, and I’m not even sure I could if I tried. Suffice to say, I laughed like a maniac, probably to the consternation of all my friends.
Big Man Japan is nothing else other than Big Man Japan. Before you venture in, I recommend you watch the preview. If it looks at all interesting to you (you’re a small crowd), watch it. You may be unpleasantly surprised. Or the opposite. No real way to predict your fate with this film. Suffice to say, don’t expect to get out unscathed.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“Part character study, part media satire and, by its finale, altogether bizarre, ‘Big Man Japan’ plays a bit like a quieter, weirder version of ‘Hancock’… the most impressive special effect here is Mr. Matsumoto’s hilariously restrained performance, a tour de force of comedic concision in a movie bloated by increasingly surreal developments.”–Nathan Lee, The New York Times (contemporaneous)