Synapse // 2006 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 7th, 2008
A third entry into the Minoru Kawasaki collection. I was all over The Rug Cop and Executive Koala. Does this one deliver?
Actually, the title pretty much describes the plot succinctly. Sometime in the near future some tectonic plate shifts aided by global warming and melting ice caps (of course) lead to the United States sinking, or, rather, being submerged. An influx of displaced Americans bolt for the Land of the Rising Sun and immediately shake up the demographics, much to the consternation of some.
But it gets worse -- countries all around the world sink, leaving -- you guessed it -- only Japan standing. Japan becomes the depot for all of the world's refugees, and the impact on the culture and currency and general way of life forces the Japanese into delirious xenophobia.
I had lofty expectations for this one, having immensely enjoyed the unfettered weirdness of the other two Kawasaki productions. Unfortunately, The World Sinks Except for Japan turns out to be the weak link in what could have been an incredibly memorable trifecta of hilarious and weird Japanese comedy.
The big crippler is the lack of meaningful laughs. Where the other two films were certainly uneven with respect to their comic hit and misses, the jokes that landed were so surreal and awesome, they made up for the mismatches. World Sinks distinctively lacks those memorable moments and overall limps along to the conclusion in tedium.
I'm pretty sure Kawasaki is after some kind of deeper social commentary and opted for a subversive piece of comedy instead of the goofball stuff. There are the obvious hat tips to global warming and the threat of melting polar ice caps (wasn't that world-ending theory essentially jettisoned when Waterworld premiered?), but we're spared from an onslaught of eco-lecturing. The main point Kawasaki's skewering, I reckon, is xenophobia -- or maybe it's the burden an enormous, sudden amount of immigration can have on a country's infrastructure. Regardless, there are a lot of foreigners and it's pissing off the Japanese.
The few laughs that can be found spring from this conceit. Fed up with the invasion of foreigners, the Japanese entertainment industry turns towards making films with men in rubber dinosaur suits stomping on Americans and refugees from other countries. Then a guy drinks a beer and turns into an Ultraman-like giant superhero and beats the crap out of the monster. That's pretty funny. There's also a completely random musical number in the middle of the film, a Kawasaki trademark, but this too lacks in comparison to other efforts.
All in all, a mediocre, unfunny effort by a director who has made me howl in the past.
The disc: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, 2.0 stereo (Japanese with English subtitles), a feature commentary with Kawasaki and actor Takenori Murano (transcribed as a subtitle option), cast interviews, a making-of featurette and the trailers.
A smidgen of decent ideas are swallowed by a surprisingly unfunny story.
This one slips below the surface...
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Cast Interviews