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Robo-G ("Robo Ji")

North American Premiere
  • Japan
  • 2012
  • 111 mins
  • HD
  • Japanese
  • English (subtitles)

“A rare freshness of concept... laugh-out-loud gags” — Mark Schilling, JAPAN TIMES

Ota, Kobayashi and Nagai, three employees of the Kimura Electrical Company, are slaving away on an android they’re due to deliver to a big robotics exhibition. But a few days before the fateful day, their creation throws itself out the window and is smashed to smithereens on the ground below. With no time to create a new one, they devise the ultimate half-baked plan: To save the company’s honour, they decide to put a person inside what remains of their robot. The trio hold an audition for the role, and Suzuki, a miserly, attention-seeking old man, tries out for it. On bad terms with his entourage (his daughter and grandchildren are thoroughly sick of his attitude), Grandpa Suzuki is happy to have something to occupy his time. Though at 73 he’s far from the ideal candidate, he’s the right size and he gets the part. But our applause-hungry granddad goes a little overboard at the exhibition and saves the life of a spectator, Yoko, earning the robot he incarnates unbelievable media coverage. Elevated to the title of robotic geniuses, Ota, Kobayashi and Nagai have to find a way to keep their deception a secret, while attempting to contain the irrepressible Suzuki, and Yoko’s enthusiasm for her saviour.

Masters in the art of the feelgood movie, where sympathetic and underestimated characters triumph, director-screenwriter Shinobu Yaguchi (SWING GIRLS) returns with a bang after four years of absence with ROBO-G. Starting from an absurd premise ideal for gags inspired by a wide range of comic stylings, Yaguchi injects a deftly developed subtext of self-acceptance and marginality that adds a moving dramatic dimension to the whole. Completely hilarious scenes, such as the absurd auditions and the exhibition where Suzuki gives his all in a grand spectacle to the despair of the three engineers, contribute to the evolution of the protagonists on whom the narrative rests. Thanks to Yaguchi’s lighthearted screenplay and the excellent cast led by the effervescent Yuriko Yoshitaka (GANTZ, ADRIFT IN TOKYO) and the venerable Shinjiro Igarashi (a one-time rock star who went by the name of Mickey Curtis — absolutely perfect in the role of Suzuki), the parallel journeys of the characters interweave to perfection, and enthrall to the very end. If ROBO-G is a crowd pleaser aiming for laughs, it also subtly sets out avenues for reflection that the spectator can explore on their own. Now that’s what’s called respecting your audience.

— Nicolas Archambault