A Japanese auto company is persuaded to take over an abandoned factory--and abandoned U.S. workforce--in a small rust-belt town in Middle America. Alas, this wonderful idea for a culture-clash comedy goes pretty much to wa... more »ste in Gung Ho. Michael Keaton gives his most relentlessly obnoxious performance as the fast-talking shop foreman who never stops BS'ing his Japanese employers, his work buddies (George Wendt and John Turturro among them), his girlfriend (Mimi Rogers), and himself. There's a trumped-up crisis in every reel, and a great deal of double talk about whether the Japanese are workaholic freaks or the new, true inheritors of the old American get-up-and-go. Director Ron Howard and screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel had made the enchanting comedy-fantasy-romance Splash only a couple of years before; they probably thought they were concocting a Frank Capra-style fable here, but, far from having a beautiful mind, this movie is strictly sitcom mentality from top to bottom. --Richard T. Jameson« less
Still holds up well after 20 years. Doesn't take sides and
Craig Matteson | Ann Arbor, MI | 08/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is now 20 years old. It is an interesting comedy for what it says about how the Japanese and American cultures were trying to learn to work together in a world economy. Americans were not used to being on the losing end of competition, quality, and efficiency. And they tended to see themselves as entitled to their well paying unskilled jobs. The movie exaggerates these traits, but having worked on an assembly line for a couple of years, I can tell you that the exaggerations are still based in reality back in the 1970s and 1980s. The Japanese are portrayed as being all about company, ruthless bargainers, and relentless perfectionists. I particularly liked the way the Japanese are shown saying things about hearing what the Americans are saying and the Americans taking it to mean agreement while the Japanese mean no such thing.
The movie doesn't take sides and shows most of the problems coming from fear and misunderstanding. Isn't that really what happened? In the 1980s Americans feared the Japanese dominance of our economy and it resulted in some extreme actions and reactions. Nowadays, we fear the Chinese in a different way, but their dominance of basic manufacturing is more complete than the Japanese ever were and yet there isn't the same kind of backlash. Why? Well, that is outside the scope of this little review. Maybe it is experience with losing certain kinds of manufacturing for decades. Maybe it is because the auto industry was seen as particularly American and the high end of unskilled labor as middle class. Maybe it is because we now see economy successfully adapting as some new job classes are created and others leave. Maybe it is something else.
Michael Keaton is fine as a man trying to save his town, but makes lots of mistakes in dealing with both sides. Still, he wins in the end. However, I believe it is Gedde Watanabe who makes the movie work. He has to be Japanese enough to be a threat while still being enough outside the mainstream Japanese culture that Americans feared in order to be sympathetic. He has many well done moments in the film and I enjoy him whenever I see him on the screen. Really, he should work even more.
George Wendt was the big name at the time with the huge success of Cheers since 1982. He represents the old American labor and has one of his least sympathetic roles, especially when he knocks down the even more unsympathetic Japanese manager (well played by Sab Shimono) and thereby shifts our sympathy to the Japanese. A neat plot trick. We also get to see the generational gap between the post World War II generation that lifted Japan from utter ruin to a world economic power in only a few decades, and the younger managers who don't feel they can say anything, but do want to be with their families (as shown in the birth of the daughter to Ito (Rodney Kageyama does a terrific job in a few small scenes. He adds a lot to the film).
We have learned a lot about working in a global economy since 1986. The Japanese have certainly suffered through their own terrible economic problems. I am glad the movie showed a positive ending with the two cultures forming an ability to work together even with much left to learn and work through.
While much has changed, the movie still holds up pretty well. But young people who never knew the paranoia of Japan from the 1980s might need to have some things explained to them."
Ironic in retrospect
circle_nine | Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken Japan | 05/06/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It was through this movie that I was first introduced to Michael Keaton, who I consider one of my favourite actors. The strength of this movie is that it tells the story for both sides of the cultural barrier and doesn't portray one as being better than the other. It is a film that both Westerners and Japanese can relate to. (In comparions, 'Mr Baseball' pushes the 'west is best' attitude when it comes to that sport.) Last year I rented 'Gung-ho' for the first time in many years. Watching this movie, while working in Japan, makes the premise ironic in retrospect. One needs only to look at Nissan , a once mighty automaker (and probable inspiration for the movie's 'Assan Motors') that had to turn to Renault to help it out, to see that fortunes in the Japanese economy have changed greatly since the time of this movie. Hence, the film is interesting in a nestalgic sort of way too."
JoeJoe | Florida | 04/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie was so much fun! The story was real-life possibility with a whole lot of laughs. Great for family viewing. I have seen this movie several times and will watch again I am sure."
A fun look at the way things were...
Stephen Ressel | North Dakota, USA | 08/02/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I worked in a theater with this movie in 1986, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Never saw a Japanese person back then, never had any intention either. Now, after being intertwined with japanese culture, and having visited 4 times, I think the film is quaint but fun.
If you look at past films that were a reflection of the events of the time, naturally you will be upset. But, some people also get upset when they look at the nutritional content on their box of corn flakes, and cause constipation in the morning. This was a romp based on the times, and had roots in reality.
Apologies to those who can't find humor in parody and lampoon, even if it is cultural."
A timeless comedy for all generations!
H. Rodgers | Calabasas, CA USA | 05/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This has been one of our families all time favorites. It's not only funny, but it's touching as well. It's as relevant socially today as when it was made. Some of the humor is subtle and so it should be viewed more than once. This movie is a classic and we feel is appropriate for our whole family as it does not have to utilize profanity, violence or other cheap shots to be truly funny. It is extremely well-written and the characters are cast to perfection. It's one of those magic movies where everything seems to work. A TOTALLY FEEL-GOOD EXPERIENCE!"