Sorasoi

A delightfully goofy summer-camp comedy, "Sorasoi" reps another feather in the eccentric cap of Japanese helmer Katsuhito Ishii.

With:
With: Sota Aoyama, Sayuri Ichikawa, Ryu Morioka, Fumi Nikaido, Masako Sato, Astushi Yoshioka, Tsubasa Fukasawa, Kanoko Kawaguchi, Junko Iitaka, Ken Oyama, Shunichiro Miki, Aiai Makino, Kikka.

A delightfully goofy summer-camp comedy, “Sorasoi” reps another feather in the eccentric cap of Japanese helmer Katsuhito Ishii (“Shark Skin Boy and Peach Hip Woman”). Co-directed by fellow multimedia artists Shunichiro Miki and Yuuuka Ooosumi under the trio’s Nice Rainbow banner, this improvised yarn about randy college students training for a dance competition has a sweet heart beneath its lewd and rude gags. World preemed at Hawaii, pic has domestic niche potential, and offshore ancillary is sure to swell Ishii’s international fanbase. Fests seeking offbeat crowdpleasers should add this to their dance cards. Local release has yet to be set.

Roughly following the pattern of an underdog sports movie — except this team never improves — pic scores big laughs from the opening shots of Tomebachi U. Dance Club rehearsing a wonderfully kitschy ’70s jazz ballet-inspired routine on a beach in the seaside town of Shimoda.

Squad consisting of five female and three male no-hopers who wouldn’t pass first auditions on “So You Think You Can Dance” is overseen by Tabe (Sato Aoyama), a dedicated young coach handed mission impossible a fortnight before regional championships commence.

While no one on team TU can approximate coordinated hoofing, all score high marks when it comes to frisky behavior and saucy dialogue driven by raging hormones. Funniest among the ditzy distaffers, possessed by the anarchic spirit of the “St. Trinian’s” schoolgirls, are hyper-excited Ai (Aiai Makino), who loves Tabe and is forever attempting to molest him, and lesbian-curious type Kikka (Kikka), who has an open crush on team captain Mako (Masako Satoh). Nerdy boy trio Astushi (Astushi Yoshioka), Tsubasa (Tsubasa Fukazawa) and Ryu (Ryu Morioka) are just as funny with their deadpan ruminations on the best way to pick up girls.

Story has enough laughing gas to simply concern itself with beachside shenanigans and randy antics at the gang’s run-down youth hostel, but goes one delightful step further by throwing mysterious stranger Yuri (Sayuri Ichikawa) into the mix. A troubled young woman who looks like she’s headed for a leap at a local suicide spot, Yuri eventually finds romance with Ryu after much amusing stumbling and bumbling around.

As raunchy as much of this sounds, perfs by an ensemble of appealing newcomers (many are students from Ishii’s acting school) are filled with such infectious enthusiasm and lack of inhibition that even when the girls are playing underwater hands-and-footsies in a communal bath and the boys are rapping about “size does count” issues, pic never feels like it’s even coming close to the grubby raunch of its “American Pie”-like equivalents.

Technical aspects are on the level of a very well-made homemovie, and that’s just as it should be.

Sorasoi

Japan

Production: A Nice Rainbow production. (International sales: Nice Rainbow, Tokyo.) Produced by Soichiro Hiramoto. Executive producer, Yoko Sakuae. Directed, written by Katsuhito Ishii, Yuuuka Ooosumi, Shunichiro Miki.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Ishii, Ooosumi; editor, Soichiro Hiramoto; music, Nagisa Murakami; choreographer, air:man; sound, Yoshiki Saito, Tomokazu Yomogita; assistant director, Kensuke Shiga. Reviewed at Hawaii Film Festival (Spotlight on Japan), Oct. 14, 2008. Running time: 89 MIN.

With: With: Sota Aoyama, Sayuri Ichikawa, Ryu Morioka, Fumi Nikaido, Masako Sato, Astushi Yoshioka, Tsubasa Fukasawa, Kanoko Kawaguchi, Junko Iitaka, Ken Oyama, Shunichiro Miki, Aiai Makino, Kikka.

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