Talk about your Ugly Americans! According to Judge Bill Gibron, the Japanese sure have one helluva axe to grind. How else could you explain this bizarre live-action comedy spoof about a Western family that's more freakish than funny?
The nuclear family as seen by the transistor society.
The Fuccons have just arrived in Japan—Mom, Dad, and only son Mikey. Adjusting to a new culture and all its idiosyncrasies is hard for the family, especially when you consider how absolutely brainless they are. Dad is a dolt, constantly inferring sex into everything the family does. Mom is a mindless drone, whose ever-present perkiness is enough to drive Buddhists to suicide, and Mikey…well, Mikey is a moronic priss who's so incredibly sissified that pre-operative transsexuals point to him as the level of femininity they hope to achieve post sex-reassignment surgery. Whether it's going to the store, drinking his milk, fishing with his cousin, or discovering the joys of a personal tutor, Mikey is as blank as a fart and twice as acrid. As these ugly Americans ascertain the pleasures and pitfalls of their new homeland, we begin to notice something odd about their wooden personalities. And then it hits us—they're mannequins! Actual showroom dummies! Like some twisted Twilight Zone tweaked out on crank, this tainted Tokyo treat seems to be a slamdunk social satire on the notion of family, friendship, and acting the fool, but the only real response one has after watching this feeble forced farce is "Who in their right mind would ever want to Meet the Fuccons?"
Remember that creepy plastic family that hawked Duracell batteries a while back, the Puttermans? You know the ones. They were dressed like rejects from the Andy Kaufman robot atrocity, Heartbeeps, moving through their pseudo-sitcom shtick in a manner more sinister than salesmanship. Meet the Fuccons is a lot like that advertising abomination, except it's even more disquieting. How odd is this show? A snuff film featuring authentic cannibalism and scenes of necrophilia would be less unsettling that this ulcerous undertaking. While you may scoff at such a suggestion, take this into consideration—with real death on screen, you know what you're getting. There's no hidden message in human flesh eating, no underlying significance to shagging a corpse. But with Meet the Fuccons, you're not quite sure what you're getting into, starting with the name. Is it a play on a famous four-letter word? Does it mean something even viler in the native Japanese? Like the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine is convinced that the Asian staff of her nail salon is secretly making fun of her, you can't help but feel that this whole Fuccon freak show is some manner of metaphysical payback for everything the West has ever done to the Far East, from colonialism to Iron Chef America.
The whole premise is like a perverted Madison Avenue executive's most horrendous wet dream. Using actual department store stiffs circa 1952, and scripts that state their purpose in direct, demonstrative assertions, the Fuccons play family as the rest of the planet pauses—and weeps—in shame. They are so perfect, so flawlessly fake and emotionally empty that this entire production could be a Tokyo interpretation of the life story of the Olsen Twins. As they go about their mundane machinations, faces frozen in mock happiness and delight, there is an escaped lunatic-like ideal to their personalities. If they weren't so smarmy and gosh-darned good, they'd be drinking the blood of infants in their spare time. Mom and Dad are perhaps the most troubling. Like Mary Beth Hurt and Randy Quaid in that misunderstood Bob Balaban classic, Parents, you're sure there is something not quite right with this American Dream-drizzled duo. As a study of suppression, these freaky Fuccons are pitch perfect, but if that is supposed to be funny, it fails. You'll be cringing more than crying your daffy laffy tears. That just leaves Mikey as a potential source of amusement. Sadly, he's so bag of hammers/box of hair/lump of lard stupid that you want to pound his whiny, weird wooden face into some manner of origami paper—and then fold that into something that's far more friendly. He's a dopey, dreary, dimpled drip who turns even the most mundane of chores—like visiting his grandparents or going to the store—into an experiment in exasperation. Again, if this is a Japanese comment on how mentally deficient and uneducated most American school kids are, Mikey is a massive poster boy for the bubble-headed. He is perhaps the only entertainment entity destined to be outsmarted by a skin tag. But he's still not funny.
What ADV has here, then, is a DVD sampler (full-series sets are coming, supposedly) of a show that really is impossible to praise and yet is equally impossible to ignore or put aside. It sure looks weird and plays out ever stranger, but unless you are tuned into the Fuccons's fudged-up wavelength, there is not a lot of lunacy to be found here. Many of the ancillary characters—the '60s supermodel tutor, the obnoxious relative from America, a potential girlfriend for Mikey—don't get enough airtime or backstory to resonate fully. Indeed, since this is just a selection of some of the series "best" offerings (there are eight three-minute episodes in total here—"The Start of Our Life in Japan," "Mikey's Cousin," "Mikey Goes Shopping," "Mikey and Milk," "Mikey and the Ghost," "The Lady Tutor," "Mikey's Grandparents," and "Fly Mikey"), we aren't getting any of the character development or conflict necessary to build up a good head of humor. If this is all supposed to be irony via iconography, it fell flat on this Westerner's wounded pride. If it's just supposed to be an expression of stupidity for retardation's sake, it's never pure enough to get that placid point across. Meet the Fuccons is probably destined to be a hugely popular cult creation, something that individuals "in the know" seem to get right off the bat. There will be those of us, though, who'll still stare in disbelief at how something so studied could be so strange—and stifling.
As for the technical specs of the disc, ADV delivers a fine, if rather barebones, digital package. The sound and vision are fabulous—the image is bright, clean and colorful in its 1.33:1 full frame transfer. The aural elements are equally good. As a matter of fact, this critic found the English dub to be far more enjoyable than the original Japanese language version (both are available, with well-done subtitles). That may be because the American actors are tweaking the material a bit, giving it an extra glint of goofy glee that the Asian cast just can't emulate. As for extras, there are some screensavers (for high-end TVs, one suspects) and some computer froufrou (icons, wallpaper) as part of the DVD-Rom experience. One hopes that as the full sets arrive on the scene, more information about the show will be presented. It is apparently likened to The Simpsons back home, since it plays in between the segments of a popular variety-style series, ala The Tracey Ullman Show. As it stands now, Meet the Fuccons is neither hilarious nor horrible. Instead, it occupies an unsettling plane somewhere between genius and germ warfare. It's up to you to decide which side of the surreal you come down on.
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