Archive for November 1st, 2012

Waterboys (2001)

It’s springtime in Japan and the Tadano High School swim team is barely keeping afloat. When a pretty new female coach turns up with a crazy idea of creating a top synchronized swimming team of her own, she has just a few problems to overcome. First – she’s teaching at an all-boys school, second – the 5 boys who have committed to the team are all hopelessly bad swimmers and third – she suddenly discovers she’s 8 months pregnant and due for maternity leave. Inspired by their coach’s dream, the boys bumble through the spring and summer, preparing a routine for Tadano High’s festival. They face great adversity: the derision of their fellow students, a swimming pool full of dead fish, the mounting pressures of college entrance exams, and worst of all, their own dismal record of constant failure. Their only encouragement comes from a gaggle of local drag queens and the crazy owner of an aquarium, whose idea of training them, is making them polish fish tanks round-the-clock. On the eve of the festival, the performance is threatened by one last catastrophe. Will the Waterboys hard work be wasted, or can they paddle their way to the success and recognition they’ve worked so hard to win?

Based on a true story when members of the swimming team at Kawagoe High School, a boy’s school in Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture, dreamed up an unusual event for their school festival: “men’s synchronized swimming” – Waterboys is a hilarious comedy that never fails to entertain. I’d been avoiding this movie for years due to the fact that I didn’t want to see a story about five young males cavorting around in their tiny swimming briefs. Why would any male want to see a movie about that? I’ve now come to regret that decision as this is easily one of the funniest Japanese movies I’ve seen in years. The laughs begin right off the bat and doesn’t let up for the entire length of the movie. The story of zeroes to heroes has been pretty much done to death in movies. Even if the story treads over familiar ground it never feels tired or cliched and even finds new ways to explore a situation. It’s a simple enough tale that’s made fantastic because of it’s endearing characters who want to fulfil a promise to their teacher whether they look stupid or not. You’ll definitely cheer them on in their quest to succeed. It’s not about winning anything but a chance to improve themselves as individuals. The story could have been a little uncomfortable as one of the team is gay and has a crush on his one of his teammates but he’s not treated any differently from the rest and is never mocked at. There’s even a budding romance subplot thrown in between the team’s leader and a girl from a nearby school but it doesn’t really go anywhere. Some of the laughs on show feature one of the boys trying to resuscitate a dolphin by blowing into it’s hole but he doesn’t know which hole to blow into and a disastrous training session which ends up with a team member getting his hair on fire! Even with all the adversities thrown at the team, when you see the finished routine right at the end you’ll be wanting to see more! It was a brilliant end to a cracking movie.

Shinobu Yaguchi did a really good job in directing this movie. The cast were superb and for once Naoto Takenaka as the eccentric dolphin trainer who usually goes completely OTT in his comedic roles is rather subdued thanks probably to the director but we still see little glimpses of this OTTness coming out from time to time. It’s like he can’t control himself and has to grab the limelight from his co-stars.

Waterboys was so successful it spun off a drama series which went on for 3 seasons. The director went on to repeat the formula for this movie in Swing Girls in 2004. That is also a very good comedy which you’d like to check out.

Overall – it’s an excellent and entertaining feel-good fun movie that everybody can enjoy. It’ll put a smile on your face. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating – 4 stars out of 5

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