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Big Man Japan 

A mockumentary about an unpopular Japanese superhero is surprisingly low-key.

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The sad-sackish middle-aged Daisato works out of his cluttered home as an agent for the Department of Monster Prevention. When called, he heads for the nearest power station, "bakes" and transforms into a huge tattooed warrior known as Big Man Japan. It may be the changing times, but Big Man Japan doesn't have many fans -- citizens decry him as too fat, too boring and making too much of a mess taking down monsters in crowded urban settings. It's a similar po-mo riff as Will Smith's recent turkey Hancock, but Hitoshi Matsumoto's comic film is far more leisurely and idiosyncratic. Daisato's story -- Matsumoto also portrays the wearied monster-fighter -- is told via a mockumentary-style profile. The mostly laid-back Big Man isn't really ha-ha funny: The interview portions offer dry humor, whereas the in-set computer-animated monster battles are mostly silly juvenilia. Your ultimate enjoyment of the film depends on your knowledge of Japanese culture and popular entertainment, such as its unending series of cheesy monster-movies and even cheesier crime-fighting TV shows. I probably missed plenty of allusions, but loved the crazy end. In Japanese, with subtitles. Fri., July 24, through Sun., July 26. Melwood

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