As previously mentioned, I am struggling a bit to look at new movies right now, mostly because the ones I am desperate to see have not been given DVD releases, and those I get from other sources are not being given English subtitles just yet. But I have taken the opportunity to rewatch a few, and take a look at some unwatched films from that giant stack that stares at me from the shelves every evening.
In my attempt to have a look at movies from some slightly different territories, I came across this teen comedy from Indonesia. Now teen comedies are not on the whole my thing (if nothing else I am probably 25 years too old to really be the target audience), but I actually found the furore over the casting of Japanese AV Star (or as we would say in the West, Porn Actress) Maria Ozawa (a.k.a Miyabi) in a film made in a strictly Muslim country somewhat fascinating. Sadly, the background story is far more interesting than the actual movie itself.
In “Kidnapping Miyabi” we follow the adventures of horny teenager Kevin and his equally horny friends. They are big fans of our Japanese porn star Miyabi, and get quite excited to learn she is about to visit Jakarta, so they decide to see her arrive at the airport. Problem is, she really is a very popular girl, and a lot of people have come to greet her. In the ensuing melee, the boys accidently kidnap her. Thing is, it turns out that Miyabi actually did not make the flight, and instead they have kidnapped a rather similar looking Chinese girl. During this confusing period, she has lost her passport, and so it is beholden on the boys to look after her whilst this is all resolved, the whole situation somewhat confused as they can’t speak to each other other than in somewhat broken English. Running parallel to this is the burgeoning romance between Kevin and his childhood friend, Jessica, who is about to have a birthday party. Jessica though has a terrible taste in men, and her boorish current boyfriend delights in nothing more than showing off and bullying Kevin and his friends. But Kevin is a nice guy, but just as things are about to go to the next level with Jessica, a misunderstanding caused by the fake Miyabi sets everything back to square one. Can Kevin win the heart of Jessica? Will fake Miyabi get to return to her botched holiday? And will the boys ever actually meet the object of their online desires?
This really is standard fare. The plot is nothing we have not seen before, and is somewhat hampered by the cultural restrictions of Indonesia. Everything is so tame, and there really are no surprises at all. I’ll risk spoiling everything by telling you all the answers to my questions in the synopsis are “yes”. Not only that, but the film seems to exist in that strange world where the teens all belong to ridiculously affluent families, who never seem to be around (even for their daughters birthday party), and where these teens have parties WHERE NO-ONE WOULD DRINK ALCOHOL!!
But even if the story is rather average and “seen it all before”, the film has some more serious issues. The biggest issue is that Maria Ozawa was not allowed to go to Java for the filming. So her scenes are all based in Japan (other than the slightly humorous final scene where the miracle of editing makes it seem she is having a conversation with one of the characters), and we have the silly premise that a girl who looks just like her, and who has a very similar name as her (which could have been a clever joke, but nothing is done with it), is used instead. I am certain that this is all the result of a last minute re-write, and makes the whole story rather clunky.
It also lacks continuity. Characters are set up, and just disappear. Our fake Miyabi has to be ushered away when Jessica comes to visit, and again a potentially funny scene is just not played out. She is taken off-screen and nothing more is done with it. Other scenes are set up (like at an amusement arcade) and the film makers just don’t seem to know how to finish the joke, so they just move on and forget about it.
It does not help either that our two central characters, Kevin and Jessica, are kind of sweet, but essentially rather boring. I had little interest in them to be honest, and I just don’t understand why they are really on the periphery of the events unfolding around them. However, they are far more bearable than any of their friends, who are just gurning, one-dimensional caricatures. They shout and wave their hands around and say vaguely funny things, but they are all pretty unlikeable, and in some cases (as with Jessica’s best friend) utterly inconsistent between scenes. In a strange twist of fate, the best actress on show is actually Ozawa – although she is only playing herself she does seem comfortable on screen, and its nicely underplayed. I see that the furore died down, and she has since made an Indonesian Horror movie, maybe I will check that out soon.
I suppose I have to understand that I am just not the target audience for this. My days of being a teenager are a long time ago, and there is a cultural divide here which means it is hard for me to totally grasp what is going on. But as a film, it is relatively harmless, but just lacks some basic qualities that make it actually hang together. It is also utterly hamstrung by not being able to follow through with the original premise of the film. I am going to say Not Recommended, though not because it is awful, but more because it is just unsatisfactory.