People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan

People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan ★★★

Frustratingly formulaic. The passage from television screen to cinema so often calls upon a tried and tested blueprint; put characters in a foreign environment and watch them wrestle with unfamiliar concepts as they unconsciously work on their own shortcomings. These films make this deliberate move away from the comforts of the original series, towards an idea of what is 'cinematic'. Which in the context of these television series-turned-films, seems to be to do everything much bigger and louder.

The original series is grounded in realism, appropriating the mock-documentary format that worked so well for such shows as The Office. Putting focus on the characters and their gestures, movements and behaviours. The focus rarely fell on the situation, but rather the characters ineptitude in dealing with the situation. Nothing much happens in each episode, and when it does the majority of each episode is the pre-amble to the actual event. The focus instead remaining on this gang of idiots. It provides ample opportunity to understand characters and their motivations, and is of course an accurate reflection of reality, in which most of the time is spent waiting in anticipation for something to happen. Shows such as this capture the idiosyncrasies of underrepresented subcultures in a way that feels genuine and in no way cynical. The Office captured the dull monotony of 9 to 5 workplace existence but also the diverse range of relationships that can bloom in such a place. People Just Do Nothing showcases a collective energy and celebration of a much maligned genre of music, which was so often the butt of jokes in the early 2000s, and the challenges of balancing passion with profession.

The film doesn't really go for the subtle approach, there are twice as many gags, but with much less of a hit rate. Once the boys are in Japan, it follows a rather tired routine of miscommunications and misunderstandings which lead to silly and outlandish situations. The step up from the estate to the streets of Tokyo happens far too quickly and as a result we don't really feel quite as invested in their adventures as we usually do. That being said, although many of the jokes fall flat, a great deal of the film focuses on the now strained relationships within the group and the chance for reconciliation, and many of these moments feel like appropriate bookends to the characters struggles in the series.

However, when it comes to adding new dimensions to the characters and their world, its pretty thin. It's their reactions to everyday life that shaped them into such three-dimensional characters - these big situations in the film don't make the characters feel any more real, but present them more like caricatures of their television versions. There are far worse television-to-film adaptations out there (Life on the Road...) and this does just enough to feel like a long episode of the series, but still can't avoid stumbling into a pit of cliches.

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