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An eccentric man aged about 40 lives alone in a decrepit house in Tokyo. He periodically transforms into a giant, about 30 meters tall, and defends Japan by battling similarly sized monsters that turn up and destroy buildings. The giant and the monsters are computer-generated.Written by
Hitoshi Matsumoto is one of a rare breed of comedians with a special gift. Tommy Cooper had it, Billy Connelly has it sometimes - the ability to make you laugh the moment they appear on stage. I've followed Matsumoto and Downtown since 1989, when I first encountered them on the sketch comedy show Yume de Aetara. A lot of his experimental comedy on the small screen since then has been outrageous, cerebral and/or scatological. It is almost always riotous, and for that reason I was expecting more of the same here. Part of Matsumoto's genius is in how he reigns in his basic instincts, creating a tension for domestic audiences, while also fashioning a clever narrative with universal appeal. That tension makes for a glorious release when classic Matsumoto moments do appear, such as standing in front of giant purple underpants, or the edit to his pixel-ated daughter in a bunny hat declaiming her indifference to her father, in contrast to the sentimental speech on her he has just given.
Many Japanese geinojin seem fettered by the jimusho system that controls their creative output, and you feel sympathy for the truly talented ones who seem capable of so much more than the usual prime-time foolishness (Takuya Kimura, take note). I always had a sneaking suspicion Downtown's Hamada-san could rise to a serious dramatic role if given the chance, so it is a pleasant surprise to be blind-sided by Matsumoto here. Understated, even moving in places, with a wonderfully comic climactic scene where the 'traditional' Matsumoto surfaces, Big Man Japan is a refreshing addition to Matsumoto's array of comic talent. Small mention to Ua as the mercenary manager, a cold-blooded portrayal. Was Matsumoto having a sly dig at his Jimusho's creative accounting? Matsumoto bites the hand that feeds here, but then feeds them in turn with the grosses this film has earned. The man is practically re-inventing the term irony, in art and in his life. Genius.
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