The last Kitano Takeshi movie for the day, Kikujiro is very much unlike the previous two movies. If anyone would think that Takeshi is only famous for, and can make only violent movies, then this one would make you do an about turn. Even the narrative style is quite different from the limited few of his movies I've been exposed to. Being PG rated (Hana-Bi was NC16), the queue of those expected to watch this film was again snaking, even though most of the (free) tickets were already snapped up.
The story centers on the deep friendship which develops between a quirky, mean and uncouth middle-aged man, and a young boy. It doesn't start off rosy, as Kikujiro (played by Takeshi himself) gets assigned, against his wishes, chaperon duties to assist and ensure that the young boy Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi) gets to find his mother. So begins a road trip of sorts, with the duo encountering a host of situations and characters (aren't road trips all like that?)
The movie can be seen as two distinct halves, with the first half in my opinion the more superior portion of the film. It centers upon the journey, on the quest to seek out Masao's mother in another county. We get to follow our mismatched duo through various escapades through their hitchhiking adventures, with one involving racing amongst cyclists (in a betting game), which is one of my favourite moments in the story. Everything else afterwards in this half is built up from that one incident, adding much to the comedic aspects that actually, although predictably, bring on some genuine laughs.
The second half is perhaps what disappoints, with its introduction of over the top characters in 2 biker gang type guys, and a farmer. Here, the sequence of events sticks out unconvincingly, even though it's possibly trying to tug at your heartstrings and bring back memories of the days of childhood, where you have adults engaging in children's games, just to keep the children entertained. The play acting with strangers take its toil as it wore on, and became a bit of a drag with repetitive childish scenes of play acting. Takeshi isn't adorable, try as he might, and some may cringe at his "act cute" moments. Somehow Yusuke Sekiguchi, who plays Masao, doesn't seem to act cute at all, and I thought it was kind of mirroring real life - imagine between a baby and an adult, who's the one playing the fool most of the time in their interactions with each other?
Nonetheless, Kikujiro is still an admirable story on friendship, amongst the unlikeliest of couples, with Kikujiro cutting a father like figure to Masao's little child. Come to think of it, it's like a road trip movie between father and son, and the braving of odds to cement some credible ties by the time the end credits come rolling.