Thursday, September 4, 2008

REVIEW: Cromartie High: The Movie - Yudai Yamaguchi (2005)

Reviewed by Chris MaGee

Ah high school! The growth spurts! The first dates! The acne! The silverback gorillas, robots, and Freddie Mercury! Wait… There were no gorillas, robots OR Freddie Mercury at my high school, and there probably weren’t at your high school either. That is unless, like Kamiyama you end up enrolling (for some reason) at Cromartie High, a school that’s been destroyed six, no, seven times by earthquakes, riots, and escaped zoo animals and that has only one academic requirement for acceptance: that you know how to subtract, and even then you don’t have to know how to subtract that well.

“Cromartie High: The Movie” (2005) is based on the popular manga and anime series (of which I have to admit I am not familiar with) where we’re introduced to the student body: idiots, delinquents, and kids who “look like yakuza” by our hero Takashi Kamiyama, an intelligent young man who only enrolled at Cromartie to be with his best friend (a hilarious cameo by Tak Sakaguchi) who ends up flunking out in the first couple of days and opens a takoyaki stand. That leaves Kamiyama to, as he sees it, save the school from itself, and boy does it need saving. Right from the get go you instantly notice that there are no teachers at Cromartie High, no principal, just kids who spend their time fighting, smoking, eating their school supplies and shitting on the floor.

Once Kamiyama’s best buddy takes off he’s left to fend for himself, but he makes friends soon enough, Hayashida who has “no brains” and Maeda, who has “no impact” (whatever “no impact” means). The movie jerks along following the three friends through such skits as the schools strongest student played by Japanese pro-wrestler Yoshihiro Takayama who becomes part of an airplane hijacking, and a fairly funny anti-smoking class, but it isn’t until a new student, Hokuta, enrolls that things really start coming together. Lying that his father is the “shadow prime minister” of Japan Kamiyama, Hayashida, Maeda (and the gorilla, Freddie, the robot… and actor Kai Ato as himself) form the Global Defense Force to save Cromartie High, Japan and the entire world from aliens from outer space… that is after they contact them and convince them to invade first.

So… this movie is silly, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s directed by the king of silly Japanese movies, Yudai Yamaguchi who brought us the brilliantly silly “Battlefield Baseball”, so if you loved that film like I did then you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into. The only thing I found is that although there are some truly laugh out loud moments in “Cromartie High” in the end things didn’t seem to gel. Moments, no matter how silly, don’t make for a good movie. I had really high hopes for this one, in fact I bought the DVD on Yudai Yamaguchi’s name alone, but in the end it didn’t have the same low budget campiness and wonderful comic timing of “Battlefield”. That being said, I won’t be trading in this DVD anytime soon. Whenever I have a couple minutes and need a good laugh I’ll pop this one in and jump to my favorite scenes. When I have an hour and a half though I’ll still pop in “Battlefield Baseball”. No contest.

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