I had enjoyed Japanese writer-director Shinobu Yaguchi's Swing Girls back in 2004, in a story of how a group of schoolgirls mobilized to form a big band jazz group, trained and finally perform in competition. It had a simple story made great by the excellent cast in endearing characters, as well as awesome jazz music to go along. In my attempt to revisit some of his earlier works, it had led me back to the Waterboys.
Waterboys almost follows the same formula, where a group of misfits get together, and against all odds and everyone's pessimism, manage to pull through and put up one heck of a performance. Along the way, they encounter seemingly implausible obstacles which stand to derail their plans and hopes, and sometimes watching them come through in comedic ways just puts a smile on you. It's one of those feel good movies without any real villains to snarl at, just being there to cheer them on as they try to give one of the best performances of their mundane lives.
A youthful looking Satoshi Tsumabuki (starred in this year's Nada Sou Sou) plays Suzuki, the only member of his school's swim team, who gets more members than he bargained for when a beautiful teacher, Mrs Sakuma (Kaori Manabe) becomes the swim coach of the all-boys school. But after a comedy of errors, we're left with 5 nerdy boys who must rough it out to be synchronized swimmers instead, bringing guffaws from their schoolmates and folks in their neighbourhood.
Not wanting to give up, they enlist the reluctant help of a dolphin trainer (Naoto Takenaka, who was also in Swing Girls at Sea World, who trains them through unorthodox methods, which brings on the laughter and allows space for the boys to exude charm during their weird routines. It's basically an underdog's story and their struggles to fulfill a promise, whether or not they look stupid or effeminate while doing it. And thrown into the mix is a budding romance between Suzuki, and Shizuko Kiuchi (Aya Hirayama), a female karate exponent from a neighbouring all-girls school.
And when they finally get their act going, you'll be left wanting more. That's how a bubblegum movie should be, in order to cover its breezy, simple plot. Thoroughly entertaining, and suitable for all ages.
The Code 3 DVD from Alliance Entertainment (as with most locally pressed DVDs) comes without any special features. Visuals are letterboxed, and the quality of transfer is decent. The audio comes in Dolby Digital Stereo, and subtitles are available in English or Chinese. Scene selection is available in 8 chapters.