Building off the experiences of its creators and growing from a College coursework project, to web series, to flagship original programme for the BBC, People Just Do Nothing has, frankly, gone from strength to strength, morphing itself into a British cultural phenomenon that’s perforated beyond just the realms of TV. Gone now are the days of cameos in Jorja Smith music videos, appearances on Chicken Shop Date and partnerships with Santander, the Kurupt FM crew find themselves – three years after the station’s final broadcast – off to the bright lights of Tokyo as their song ‘Heart Monitor Riddem’ found new levels of success following its use on a Total Wipeout-style game show. As the boys finally achieve fame, the following glitz and glamour enacts a strain on the dynamic as the group’s seemingly final chapter plays out on relatively generic, but wholly enjoyable terms.
Consider this a ‘content warning’ of sorts, or simply just something worth bearing in mind, but Big in Japan is not a film with too broad of an appeal. Serviceable in its attempts at creating a narrative that doesn’t feel like a sequel in an explicit sense, it could still be quite easy for any of those that are uninitiated to feel a sense of alienation – it’s one that gets straight into reuniting the crew of Kurupt FM and sending them off on their global adventure, adopting all the same conventions of the show, from the direct-to-camera talking heads and the rest of the mockumentary format, the roster of oddballs and even the repetition of a few jokes – I’d recommend an episode or two (at least) as key viewing – whether or not it’s absolutely crucial is a point for debate given that comedy, especially, is a wildly subjective genre and that People Just Do Nothing is a blend of the UK’s most successful comedic exports from the past 25 years (think: The Office and Alan Partridge) so might be more palatable to some, but it is worth a degree of familiarisation to get on board with its offerings and beat the potential jarring nature it could well possess.
That out the way, let the endless praise begin. Coming off the wave of a decade’s worth of incredible success, the consensus regarding Big in Japan is one that acknowledges its finality – a sentiment that feels compounded by the complimenting BBC iPlayer retrospective special, and quite honestly, the film makes for a brilliant cap to the tales of those who make up Brentford’s first and finest pirate radio station forming into an excellent stage for its cast to bow out on. Wedding elements of their “greatest hits” (for lack of a better term) to a strong, fresh narrative and with a surprising amount of incredible emotional power, Kurupt FM’s trip to the Japanese capital of Tokyo, has immense value. Ending on the terms of its creators and staying true to their vision, Big in Japan has a genuine claim to be one of the best hang-out style films, period, and perhaps more contentiously, is one of the better cinema releases of 2021.
Boasting some of the finest performances to date from its still semi-novice cast, the group translates well to the big screen without losing a shred of the personalities, or clashes that made the series into the cult success that it was. Dropped into new, metropolitan surroundings, the whole “fish out of water” narrative archetype works effectively and that’s a credit to a number of departments, none more so than the writing department, staffed again by the recurring cast headed up with regular writing duo: Steve Stamp and Allan Mustafa. It links back to the authenticity I mentioned earlier and by doing justice to itself Big in Japan is a success.
Keeping it Kurupt and proving the rest are irrelevant, People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan is a number of things, from a near tear-jerking goodbye to a riotous cinema experience it’s surprisingly one that’s lasted with me since its first viewing and reignited the love for the original series. A satisfying final chapter and one for the fans, the converted will flock to it whilst a few stragglers of outsiders might succumb to temptation.