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Summer Time Machine Blues


The gang of Summer Time Machine Blues
Japanese: サマー タイム マシン ブルース  
Year: 2005  
Director: Katsuyuki Motohiro  
  Producer: Chikahiro Ando, Masaki Koide
  Writer: Makoto Ueda
  Cast: Eita, Juri Ueno, Yoshiaki Yoza, Daijiro Kawaoka, Munenori Nagano, Yoko Maki, Tsuyoshi Muro, Riki Honda, Takeshi Masu, Ichiro Mikami, Kaoru Kusumi, Kuranosuke Sasaki, Taiyo Kawashita
  The Skinny: A ragtag group of college kids get their hands on an honest-to-goodness time machine and end up wreaking havoc on the time-space continuum in quite possibly one of the funniest films ever made about time travel.
   
Review by Calvin McMillin:

Filmmaker Katsuyuki Motohiro takes a breather from helming the mega-popular Bayside Shakedown series to direct 2005's Summer Time Machine Blues, a hilarious sci-fi comedy about the wacky complications that always seem to arise whenever time travel is involved. Based on a stage play by theatre troupe Europa Kikaku, this big screen adaptation revolves around five college geeks - Takuma Komoto (Eita, from TV's Waterboys), Masaru Niimi (Yoshiaki Yoza), Shunsuke Koizumi (Daijiro Kawaoka), Atsushi Soga (Munenori Nagano), and Daigo Ishimatsu (Tsuyoshi Muro) - who all belong to the same college sci-fi club, although none of them seem to know the least bit about science fiction.

The film kicks off with the five club members playing a game of three-on-three baseball (the club's cute-as-a-button dog serves as one team's third player), while the bespectacled Yui Ito (Yoko Maki, from The Grudge) stands nearby, snapping photos of the boys at play. After returning to their otaku-styled clubhouse, the boys head off to the public bathhouse to freshen up, leaving Yui and her shutterbug pal Haruka Shibata (Juri Ueno, from Swing Girls) alone to develop their pictures in the nearby darkroom. During their bathhouse trip, the pudgy Niimi loses his cool when he discovers that his prized Vidal Sassoon shampoo has gone missing (plot point!). This proves to be just one of many strange occurrences that will plague the young men during this fateful day.

For example, after breaking off from the group, Takuma sneaks off to the local movie theatre to buy tickets for a sci-fi B-movie, hoping that Haruka will agree to a date. When he returns to the clubhouse to ask her, his friends are shocked to see him and begin acting inexplicably strange. But before they explain their behavior to him, a hilarious chain reaction causes one of them to accidentally spill Coke on the air conditioner's remote control. As a consequence, the remote malfunctions, as does the air conditioner! Immediately, the boys and girls find themselves sweating bullets in the sweltering summer heat. As the sci-fi geeks rush to fix the remote and find a replacement fan the next day, they soon find the answer to their prayers in the unlikeliest of sources.

Out of nowhere, a time machine appears, complete with a traveler from the future, an equally geeky Akira Tamura (Riki Honda), who looks as if he's stepped out of the 1950s, not the year 2030 as he claims. As the boys come to grips with the fact that the device in front of them is an honest-to-goodness time machine, they decide to make good use of it. But instead of venturing into the distant past or the far-flung future, the boys have more practical aims, as they choose to go back in time to the previous day to bring back the AC remote control before it's ruined! It seems like a sound plan, but of course, what the kids don't realize is that any change made to the past will alter the very fabric of time-space continuum, and thereby blink them out of existence, a la Back to the Future! But each time the boys go back in time to fix things, they encounter mishap upon mishap, as they must correct their mistakes without coming in contact with their "past selves" and altering the past any further.

Half send-up, half homage, Summer Time Machine Blues is a matchless delight, as it gently pokes fun at the subgenre of time travel movies, while at the same time delivering probably one of the better sci-fi stories in the last few years. It's certainly the funniest. Although there are gags galore, the self-aware nature of the film's comedy is in full force during a scene in which the club members debate the issue of time travel. The local theatre manager (Ichiro Mikami), who also happens to be a Trekkie who bears more than a passing resemblance to Star Trek's Commander Riker, steps in to clarify matters, saying that time will basically fix itself and paint over the imperfections. This uninformed response is countered by Professor Kohtaro Hozumi (Kuranosuke Sakaki), who also comes out of nowhere, to haul everyone to his classroom for a lengthy lecture on the dire consequences of time travel. The sci-fi club members' reactions are priceless.

The film is full of great comic bits like this, including some funny jokes that pay off later in the film. As a result of the situational time travel-centric humor, Summer Time Machine Blues is one film that merits a second viewing, as the viewer will begin focusing on the background details in later screenings, discovering events they didn't notice the first time around. Even better, with all its time travel complications, it's a movie that not only holds up to repeated viewings but actually stays true to its own internal logic. As a lighthearted farce, it had no obligation to "make sense," but the fact that it does - or at least acknowledges its own paradoxes for additional comic effect - make it an even smarter film, all the more worthy of acclaim. Of course, it's not just the crackerjack plot and the humor that work, but the actors involved as well. What's most refreshing about the actors is that, even though they are playing somewhat exaggerated characters, they all come across as actual friends, in no small part due to the fact that they are all intensely likeable, even though some of them aren't exactly the sharpest tools in the shed.

To say any more about the film would probably do it a disservice. A joke is best heard firsthand, not explained by a third party. And when it comes to sci-fi comedy, Summer Time Machine Blues is, quite possibly, one of the funniest time travel movies ever made. Sure, maybe later, I'll want to go back in time and reverse such an overwhelmingly positive endorsement, but somehow, I doubt it. Summer Time Machine Blues is a fun movie - for any era. (Calvin McMillin, 2006)

   
Availability: DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
Toshiba Entertainment
16 x 9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Removable English and Japanese Subtitles
Audio Commentary and Trailers
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
 

   
 
 
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