Indican Pictures // 2003 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Aaron Bossig (Retired) // October 7th, 2005
"I'm not just watching a movie starring Anna Nicole Smith. I'm watching a movie starring a midget drag queen pretending to be Anna Nicole Smith." -- Me
Wasabi Tuna might appear to be a cutting-edge independent film glorifying Hollywood's unique cultural atmosphere, but in reality, it's an old-fashioned farce of the highest order. Like the great farce features of stage and early cinema, the movie is made enjoyable through an elaborate setup of misunderstandings, coincidences, and accidents. Wasabi Tuna's story features a mishmash of a gay couple, their straight friends, drugs, cross dressers, sushi-based Halloween costumes, and Anna Nicole Smith. Everything is rooted in surprise and misdirection in absurd situations. If I were to discuss the plot in any great detail, I'd ruin the spontaneity of the film, and that spontaneity is what makes the film funny. I'd also do something fairly pointless; a farce isn't so much about the characters' motivations as it is about the unlikely situations those motivations put them in.
The spoiler-safe version is that a group of friends are all set to go to a Halloween party, and are trying to decide between going as gangsters or as spicy wasabi tuna. When trying to put their costumes together, the group finds themselves at odds with the local gangs as well as the police force, and ultimately, they find themselves at the feet of Anna Nicole Smith. This is the kind of story that could only take place in California, with its flamboyant lifestyle, extreme cultural diversity, and large populations of the both middle class and wealthy people. A farce depends upon highly unlikely scenarios in order to be funny, and the California landscape sets up a world where an interior decorator can wind up behind bars because he didn't get to dress like a plate of fish.
Rumor has it Quentin Tarantino loves this movie, claiming the dialogue is fantastic. If that's true, he's got a point, judging by the banter of several friends bickering despite their lives being at risk (Immortal dialogue :"Well, I can't blame them. If I was in a gang, that would be my modus operandi!"), leading up to an ending ripped right from classic Scooby-Doo. Me personally, I'm impressed by the reactions. With all the humor rooted in confusion and chaos, the great "punchlines" will be the characters expressing their frustrations. Each actor in Wasabi Tuna delivers with perfection. I challenge you to watch our life-partner protagonists Harvey (Barney Cheng, Stay Until Tomorrow) and Evan (Jason London, The Rage: Carrie 2) tell a group of thugs about their interior decorating business, and not crack up. The two are just oblivious to how much danger they're in, following in the classic spirit of a farce.
The absurdity, the movie's strength, then also becomes its greatest weakness. A great deal of work is needed to maintain suspension of disbelief in a farce. Every audience member has a breaking point, and it's the job of the filmmaker to make a movie just believable enough to never hit that point. I admit, I was getting close to giving up when the transvestite Anna Nicole Smith clones got into a brawl with the kung-fu chicks, but... well, let's just say if you can imagine that and still watch this movie, you'll probably have a good time.
On a technical level, the DVD fails quite badly. The video is only non-anamorphic widescreen; the picture, while bright and vivid in some parts, shows flicker and other abnormalities in others. The special features backing the feature up are two trailers, a behind-the-scenes featurette, b-roll clips, a music video, and a collection of interviews. All the extras except the b-roll clips were created as promotional material for the film. If you watch them as they're intended, before you see the movie, they'll do their job and pique your interest. If you're like me, and watch the extras after the movie to gain further insight, what's offered here won't provide any new or interesting information. The b-roll clips are the only supplement not created directly for the purpose of marketing the film. They aren't particularly enlightening either, but at least they feel genuine. You'll actually get a glimpse of what it's like to be on the set of a film.
I wouldn't grant Wasabi Tuna the same level of praise that Mr. Tarantino has, but it's still a great way to spend an evening. As comedies go, it's much more rewarding to watch the chaos of a farce than the calculated immaturity of a movie like The Ladies Man. The court clears Wasabi Tuna of all charges, and issues a warning against non-anamorphic DVDs.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Indican Pictures
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* B-Roll Fun
* Music Video