“Funky Forest: The First Contact” – A.J. Hakari

You think you’ve seen weird movies. You’ve sat through the combined legacies of David Lynch, David Cronenberg, and Takashi Miike, and you’ve thought to yourself, “I’ve seen it all.” But in all my years of moviegoing, I can safely say that nothing has prepared myself or any of you readers for the smackdown of strangeness that Japan’s Funky Forest: The First Contact lays down upon those who pop it into their DVD players. Normally, this is where I’d be celebrating the film for its carefree attitude, tossing normal cinematic conventions to the wind in favor of marching to the beat of its own insane drum. But in this case, “weird” doesn’t even come close to translating as “good” on the whole, as Funky Forest has the unfortunate tendency to go from being curiously fun to irritatingly repetitive at the drop of a hat.

If you’re hoping to get an in-depth synopsis of the film’s plot, then I’m afraid I have to be the bearer of bad news. When I say that Funky Forest has no plot, I really mean it — there is next to no story to speak of. Instead, the flick’s insanely bloated, 150-minute running time is comprised of bizarre skits and stories tied together with the loosest of connections. We see the mundane home lives of a trio of siblings coined the “Unpopular-with-Women Brothers” (one of whom is a decidedly non-Japanese white kid who’s never seen without a Snickers bar onhand). Another trio, one of friends/sales clerks, chat virtually every moment of their stay at a spa retreat. A pair of pseudo-lovers dissect one another’s dreams while mulling whether or not to take their relationship to the next level. Other odd characters weave their way in and out of the picture, while the brief snippets of action are broken up with even shorter segments, from spontaneous dance numbers to an increasingly senseless routine being performed by a comedic team called the Mole Brothers.

I’ll admit that before I went ahead and added Funky Forest to my Netflix queue, I was warned of the journey I was about to partake. I was told that I wouldn’t “get” this movie and that it really possesses no rhyme or reason whatsoever. And you know something? This friend was right on all counts. Funky Forest has the feeling of comprising itself of whatever was going through the minds of its three (count ‘em, three!) directors at any given time during production. But this isn’t something like The Kentucky Fried Movie, wherein a bunch of goofy vignettes are strung one after the other in the context of being a part of something bigger at hand. Each new scene within Funky Forest exists in its own little world, and even though characters pop up in each others’ segments, quite a few of them even converging once or twice for the same event, their ultimate relationship to one another is about as thin as Paris Hilton’s acting credibility.

So, what’s wrong with a movie that announces right off the bat that it has no intentions of crafting a solid storyline or providing its vast array of characters with any real motivation beyond making you chuckle once or twice? Well, nothing, under the right circumstances. Funky Forest, on the other hand, starts off on a positive note with its gonzo charm, but once the unsettling realization that it’s going to recycle the contents of its bag of quirks for two and a half hours hits you, the effect is like having one of those cymbal-crashing monkeys installed in your cerebellum for the same amount of time. I’ll gladly own up to the fact that I did not find a lot of what I saw in Funky Forest funny; some moments (e.g. the hapless Unpopular-with-Women Brothers) made me chuckle, but others (e.g. the rest of the movie) gave me the sneaking suspicion that the directors were in a desperate search of anything to keep the viewer’s attention. Simply put, the makers of Funky Forest didn’t have enough material to justify ten minutes of weirdness, let alone a length 15 times bigger than that. Repetition sets in fast, and the pretentious, artsy-farsty attitude that the film adopts as a whole leaves you with the feeling of being looked down upon by its creators for not appreciating their creative endeavor.

With its non-linear structure and utterly random approach to generating content, Funky Forest: The First Contact easily has the potential to live a long life of being traded amongst cinephiles, each one chanting, “You’ve gotta see this.” I can also see it serving as a form of art, being played on an endless loop at museums across the country. The trouble is that while patrons will initially be drawn to Funky Forest for at least a couple of minutes, they’re likely to find a more fulfilling distraction in some statue of a purple dog doing the Charleston.

Rating: ★½☆☆

-A.J. Hakari

Read more of A.J.’s reviews at ReelTalk Movie Reviews, Classic Movie Guide, and Terror Tube.

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