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Japan 2006

Comedy, Drama

Rieko Miyamoto

Hayato Ichihara
Yuta Hiraoka
Tasuku Emoto
Mao Inoue
Ayumi Ito
Tetsuji Tamayama
Sayaka Yamaguchi
Shingo Yanagisawa
Yutaka Matsushige
Satoko Oshima

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Check it out, Yo!

Story: Toru (Hayato Ichihara) is your average teenager without any perspective in life. One day he is saved from drowning by the girl Nagisa (Ayumi Ito) and things get more interesting.
Together with his buddies Akira (Tasuku Emoto) and Tetsuo (Yuta Hiraoka) Toru is taken to a concert by tomboy Yui (Mao Inoue) who introduces them to the the hip-hop band "Workaholic". The boys are hoping to get to know some girls there, but after the concert they come up with an idea even better. They want to make a hip-hop band on their own, in order to get their hands on some girls. However, for this they first have to learn to play some instruments, and even more important they need to write some good lyrics. Of course, this proves to be more difficult than expected. It doesn't come as a surprise that their first gig isn't going really well...
Still, the boys have the support of Yui and later on even of their fathers. It's just that Toru seems to be too blind to get aware of the feelings Yui has for him for a long time already. His beloved one, Nagasi, however, is the girlfriend of the bandleader of "Workaholic". Furthermore, there is another love triangle about to rise, and apart from that things don't go really well concerning the band, either...

Review: "Check it out, Yo!" is a typical teen comedy, the kind you definitely have seen before, but it still has something interesting about it. However, the scriptwriters weren't really inventive and so the plot revolves around a bunch of teenagers who want to get rid of their "loser"-tag by playing in a band. In movies like "Swing Girls" this works out a lot better and is even more funny than here. Still, this doesn't mean that "Check it out, Yo!" is a bad movie. For those who are looking for their regular genre-fix, this film might be just what they are looking for. Even the more as it is definitely better or at least more demanding than your standard Hollywood or Korean teen comedy.

As the movie progresses it truly becomes difficult not to get tangled up in the plot. We are introduced to numerous characters, one more wacky than the other, and only little by little we are able to mentally grasp who is in relationship to whom in what way. Nevertheless, one of the biggest sore points is that there is seemingly no structure implemented into the movie. There isn't a real main thread connecting all parts, or in other words the different scenes somehow look randomly arranged. Well, some may argue that this is characteristic for comedy flicks like this, as this underlines the chaotic aspect of teenagers' life, but, still, the filmmakers lose their focus more often than it is good for the picture. Nonetheless, interestingly enough the more dramatic moments work out surprisingly well, as they seemlessly fit into the overall picture, without having the nature of stylistic inconsistency.

Actually, one would have to believe, that hip-hop is the theme that stands in the center of events of this flick, but oddly enough music just gets a raw deal. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as one seemingly tried to concentrate on what's essential of the music for the movie, without drifting off too much into music sessions. In fact, it takes a while until we get the first musical insertion. Apart from the last concert, that's it already concerning this matter. And also aside from a little bit of rapping, of course. Basically, open-minded for any kind of music style I'm not exactly considering myself a fan of rap. Still, when the Japanese get their hands on a mike and start rapping, then it all sounds a bit different than what you are used to hear - as for me, I absolutely didn't dislike what I heard. Nevertheless, as already mentioned, you don't have to be a music fan to be able to enjoy "Check it out, Yo!".
Unfortunately, as a matter of fact, some of the musical intermezzos seem a bit too contrived and forced. The actors also try too hard to be more cool than they really are. Sure, part of it is done so intentionally, as it underscores the film's humor. However, it remains a fact that the music can't really get into a symbiotic relationship with the rest of the film as it was the case in the already mentioned "Swing Girls", for instance.

At times director Rieko Miyamoto's debut movie is just too predictable. We have a love triangle - well, actually it's two of them, which just so happen to overlap - or just certain kinds of characters of whom we have the feeling of having seen them before already. It's the same with some of the side stories. From the father who doesn't get along with his son-in-law to the main plot, we have seen it all before and so we have to face frequent deja-vus. The guys have to learn how to play instruments in a ridiculously short span of time, as they are already signed up for a gig, and as not expected otherwise this just has to head for a catastrophe. Without a doubt, the audience will have its fun, yet a few more new ideas wouldn't have been bad.
Nonetheless, you have to give the scriptwriters some credit for the ending, as this one comes a little bit as a suprise and is a lot more mature in its core than what one might have expected.

Basically, "Check it out, Yo!" works out because of its wacky characters. And there are a lot of them. The one who sticks out the most is without any question sumo wrestler Konishiki as Andy, who doesn't only impress with his body dimensions, but also adds to the viewers amusement with his rap-skills. His pregnant wife is a groupy of the band "Workaholic" and there is also a teacher, who tries over and over again to get a girlfriend via a dating agency and without knowing it even becomes a model for the wanne-be musicians, because of his strong will never to give up.
Main actor Hayato Ichihara does a decent job as Toru, only during the more serious scenes he can't be really convincing. Sadly, the two other guys remain a bit shallow, only Yuta Hiraoka ("Swing Girls") can show a bit of his acting talent towards the end. Mao Inoue is supposed to play the tomboy in the group, who likes to let her fists (or feet) speak when it comes to it, which leads to some nice laughs. However, she looks just too cute to really convince as a tomboy. Ayumi Ito, playing the girlfriend of the leadsinger of "Workaholic" is degraded to being just that and nothing more: cute. Her character really lacks any in-depth.

The large quantity of interesting characters and some of the vision-like instertions certainly can amuse the viewer. However, most of the time the film proves to be too inconsistent. Where exactly is it heading? Some scenes look surprisingly mature and serious, for instance the dialogue between father and son, yet in the end "Check it out, Yo!" seems to aim for nothing more than to entertain. Well, it succeeds in this, even if you sometimes have to bear with the party-like style of the movie and some few concert intermezzos. Even though the film doesn't deliver anything outstanding in particular, you can't deny that it was done with a lot of heart. You might want to check it out.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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