Sunday, April 20, 2008

Check It Out, Yo! (Chekeraccho!!)

Won't The Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up?

Check It Out, Yo! likely has flown under the radar of cinema listings here, given that the publicity machinery for this Japanese movie wasn't cranked, if at all. Along the veins of movies such as Swing Girls, Linda Linda Linda and even Hula Girls, what if a musical genre of sorts had male protagonists instead, just like how Waterboys did for synchronized swimming. Sounds like a no brainer idea, but while Check It Out, Yo! had its moments, it plateaued in its finale and didn't deliver the sucker punch required as per the previous movies mentioned, which is a pity of course. And it's not about the gender too.

The movie centers on Toru Isaka (Hayato Ichihara), a student at the crossroads of teenage life, who together with his good friends Tetsuo Tamashiro (Yuta Hiraoka, who was in Be With You and Swing Girls) and Akira Motobe (Tasuku Emoto) are trying to figure out what next to do with their lives. Their mutual female friend Yui Haebaru the tomboy (Mao Inoue) and wrestling freak, offers them a ticket each to the gig of the hottest indie rap band in town, the Workaholics, and it dawned upon them to aspire to be in a band too, given the countless female adulation that they will receive.

But given that they have zero experience in playing musical instruments, and an even non-existent track record in writing lyrics, it's all an uphill task made all the more challenging when they sign up to be the opening gig for the Workaholics, which means a do-or-die performance to deliver. And in between their training, Toru has to find time to romance his new crush Nagisa Nakamura (Ayumi Ito, voice of Tifa Lockhart of the Final Fantasy movies), the girlfriend of Workaholic's frontman Ryota Taram (Tetsuji Tamayama, from Nana), while at the same time being oblivious to the affections that Yui has for him, who in turn is liked by Tetsuo... my, my, the affairs of the heart do get complicated, don't they?

The movie was found to have been centered around this love heptagon, which meant that other aspects that you'd expect coming out of a musical, get casted aside. A pity of course, as there was only one hilarious and simply engaging musical sequence midway through the movie which highlighted their trials and determination to make it good in time for their performance, thanks to Yui's sister and brother-in-law, a large-sized hawaiian man who becomes the master of the boy's new band 098, but only just quite.

No doubt the visuals are extremely colourful and beautiful - I particularly liked those shots set in front of the aquarium - but these can't mask the relatively weak storyline despite having plenty of supporting cardboard characters like their individual, feuding parents and a teacher who can't get his personal relationships in order, to spice up the movie. And what I found to be an immense waste, is the entire sequence set up for the finale, which the finale failed to live up to, given that it's just a one song performance, and a truncated one at that too. While it may be cliche to have the protagonists succeed in the end, just like how Swing Girls and the mentioned movies had achieved, at least they left the audience with a sense of satisfaction in seeing how far they have progressed in their training. Here, it became a letdown, despite the potential that had been prepped.

However, Check It Out, Yo! Still remains a charming movie in its own right, barring the lack of a punch to the final moments. If you still intend to watch this, then you'd have to do so soon as it is likely to survive on screen for another week.

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