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Drugstore Girl
  |     review    |     availability     |

DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
Geneon Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English Subtitles
Various extras

Year: 2004
Director: Katsuhide Motoki
Writer: Kankuro Kudo
Cast: Rena Tanaka, Akira Emoto, Yuji Miyake, Yoshiko Mita, Yu Tokui, Shinoi Eisuke, Rokuhira Naomasa, Masato Ibu, Kie Negishi, Naoki Sugiura, Kimiko Amari, Yumiko Fujita, Yoshiyoshi Arakawa
The Skinny: This quirky Japanese comedy from the writer of Go and Ping Pong has some entertaining moments, but it ultimately falls flat on its droll, self-amused face. Star Rena Tanaka is lovably cute, though that can only get you so far. If you must get a Japanese comedy/sports movie fix, see Ping Pong instead.
by Kozo:
     Adorable Japanese idol Rena Tanaka stars in Drugstore Girl, a quirky comedy written by Kankuro Kudo, who adapted the intelligent and entertaining scripts for both Go and Ping Pong. Drugstore Girl shares some traits with Kudo's other works; all three films make a connection between the trials of one's body and peace of one's soul, and all three films possess quirky characters whose quirks are meant to make them endearing. However, unlike Ping Pong or Go, Drugstore Girl can't seem to reach a point beyond its pervasive quirkiness and low-key stabs at humor. Ultimately, the film doesn't seem to mean more than its semi-amusing parts.
     Rena Tanaka stars as Keiko Obayashi, a third year pharmacology student who goes into an emotional tizzy after finding her cheating boyfriend in the tub with another girl. Despondent, she hops a train and ends up in rural Masao, where she quickly applies for a part-time job at brand new drug superstore. The store is a problem for the local gentlemen, who populate the nearby Bamboo Mall with the same types of businesses (i.e., drugstore, convenience store, bakery). Led by Nabe-yan (screen veteran Akira Emoto), the five middle-aged men decide to take out the drugstore on its very first day. They plan to smoke it out and barricade themselves in, until somebody notices and sends the drugstore away.
     At this point, the movie looks like it's going to be a big business vs. small business thing with fresh-faced Keiko stuck in the middle.'s not! Nope, Drugstore Girl takes a massive detour when the men enter the drugstore only to become immediately smitten by pretty young Keiko. What once was a film about the indignation of independent businessmen becomes a story of old guys macking on the pretty young thing at the drugstore. They even follow her to discover her alternate passion: playing lacrosse with her college club. It's creepy, but Keiko doesn't even notice. Even more, she volunteers to coach them when they form their own lacrosse club. Her motives are eventually revealed: she wishes to form a great team to show up her cheating ex-boyfriend. Their motives: to get a date with her, which she eventually offers if they can actually score a goal! The problem: they suck hard. Cue one hundred minutes of lackadaisical pacing and old men getting smacked around on the lacrosse field.
     Those who have an issue with Drugstore Girl's somewhat icky suplot—old guys who want to get it on with a pretty young girl—had best get over it. Everyone else in the film seems to not care about the pervy passions of the old men, whose public pronouncement of their affection for Keiko is seen as nothing more than the harmless ranting of over-the-hill dopes. Even Keiko doesn't seem to mind all that much. Screenwriter Kankuro Kudo basically gives her all the power, so she's never in any danger. Instead the focus is on something else, which is...well...something. Keiko is never going to turn her team into anything other than a minor joke, but the trials of the old men are somewhat amusing. Basically, their struggle is about trying to be only partial losers and not complete and total ones. Add that to the minor character issues, somewhat unbelievable events, and finally the overbearing quirkiness of the proceedings, and Drugstore Girl is just semi-amusing fluff.
     But is that really enough? Hardly. While Go and most especially Ping Pong made great use of quirkiness to create entertaining and affecting storylines, Drugstore Girl never becomes more than a sum of its parts. Kankuro Kudo and director Katsuhide Motoki dispense quirkiness at the expense of actual logic, and questions that should probably be answered go completely ignored. First of all, where does Keiko live? After leaving her boyfriend, she bums around at the homes of a couple of virtual strangers, only to disappear from the radar when the old men take center stage. Also, where the heck are Keiko's parents? Don't they care that she's homeless and is coaching a bunch of lecherous old guys?
     Yeah, these questions may seem like nitpicking in such a rampant sea of obviously quirky filmmaking, but the fact that they get asked betrays Drugstore Girl's greatest debit: it doesn't suspend disbelief enough to allow its collection of quirkiness to fly as an actual film. And the sports sequences aren't very interesting either. Overall, Drugstore Girl seems more amused with itself than anything else, which is hardly grounds for a recommendation. On the plus side, Rena Tanaka is cute, and the old guys are entertainingly dopey. Still, that can only get you so far. (Kozo 2004)
 Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen