Thursday, December 28, 2017

Review - Getting Any?

December 28, 2017

Getting Any? – Japan, 1994

Just what makes a good spoof? This question has baffled many a screenwriter, most of whom seem to be torn aver how many things from whatever genre is being parodied to reference. The Naked Gun wisely limited its focus; its sequels not so much. Get Smart, a cinematic rendition of a television show that was itself a spoof, wisely didn’t stray too far from its source material, while the Scary Movie series drifted so far into various genres that one wonders if its creators were off their Ritalin when they penned them. And don’t get me started on films like Meet the Spartans.

To me, a successful spoof has a story that the spoof is built around, for example, thwarting an assassination attempt, stopping a madman hell bent on ruling the world, and the attempts of a lonely bachelor to find love. The send-ups that are included should fit nicely into that story. Takeshi Kitano’s 1994 film Getting Any? more closely resembles the work of the Wayans Brothers than that of the Zucker brothers, David and Jerry, and Jim Abrahams. In its raunchiness, it brings to mind such 80’s “classics” as Porky’s and Revenge of the Nerds, and its approach to storytelling seems to have come from the mind of someone frequently plucking ideas from a mental hat filled with references to popular films, perhaps reasoning that if one didn’t stick, the next one might.

The film resembles many sex comedies from the eighties and early nineties. It is about a awkward daydreamer named Asao (played by Minoru Iizuka, a.k.a. Dankan) who wiles away his days daydreaming of scenarios in which he gets laid. His first involves cars, which he reasons women can’t resist. In his mind, all a man with a car has to do is offer a stranded woman a ride and then suggest they sleep together. His problem - other than the obvious one – is that he lacks both a car and the money to buy one. When he finally gets one, it’s such a clunker that it falls apart even before he drives it out of the dealership. His solution: get a more attractive car, of course.

From there, the movie jumps around from genre to genre. We get his efforts to become a bank robber, his failed attempts to take over the role of Zatoichi, and his accidental transformation into an assassin for the yakuza; from there, the film jumps into other genres, such as horror and science fiction. At one point, I was reminded of films like Zapped, in which the lead character gets special powers and seems to only use them to make clothes fly off unsuspecting women, and of the Extras episode with Patrick Stewart, which parodied Stewart’s dignified image by presenting him as being inspired to make movies like Zapped to hilarious results.

So, is Getting Any any good? To be honest, it has its moments, though, for my tastes, far too few of them. I was tickled by its repeated use of dying gangsters that just happen to ask Asao to look after their cars for him, and some of the bits involving Asao in the role of Zatoichi, a role that Kitano would take on himself years later, made me slightly chuckle. I enjoyed the way a gangster boss keeps getting run over by his own crew while trying to lead them into a fracas, though the blatant homage to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video fell flat, and in one scene, a scientist uses the word “Hamlet” to great comic effect.

However, too little of the film resonated. Asao has no character, and we’re given no reason to care whether he successfully finds love or not. His many misadventures are played out strictly for comedy, and do not advance any consistent narrative. In fact, the film has to remind us in its closing moments of how it began. In that scene, Asao, his body bruised and covered in human manure, utters his final words, “Car sex.” Perhaps I shouldn’t say the final scene, for there is actually an additional scene at the end of the credits, the point of which was lost on me.

It is perhaps unfair to criticize Getting Any? for not having a point or direction, as some spoofs exist simply to poke fun at something. Fair enough, but the best ones do more than just send up popular films. They are narratively structured and are striving to get somewhere. Getting Any? has nowhere to go but into well-trodden cinematic territory and nothing to say beyond, “Look how silly and crude we can be.” Kitano himself described the film as a mockery of the way some young Japanese men talk to women about sex. However, too little of the plot seems to reflect that, and what does never seems applicable to the real world, particularly because Asao is so out there as a character. Getting Any? isn’t wacky enough to be taken as pure farce, nor is it topical enough to make a recognizable statement. Instead, it is a collection of scattered parts which don’t add up to much as a complete picture. (on DVD and Blu-ray)

2 stars

*Getting Any? is in Japanese with English subtitles.

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