Cromartie High School started out as a popular manga strip which was adapted into an outrageously funny anime show. (Read my reviews of that series here: Volume one, two, three, and four.) In 2005 the characters even made the leap to the big screen in a live action film directed by Yudai Yamaguchi (Battlefield Baseball) entitled Sakigake!! Cromartie High The Movie. While both the manga and anime series were laugh-out-loud funny, it is unfortunate that this movie fails to capture the spirit of those earlier adaptations. It comes across as a poorly executed sketch comedy show without the big laughs that it should have.
Sixteen year old Takashi Kamiyama is a clean cut kid, and the newest student at Cromartie high, the school with the worst reputation in Tokyo. It's the school where all of the delinquents get sent. I don't mean your ring-the-doorbell-and-run-away delinquents, more like the set-fire-to-the-teacher type of hoodlum. They look more like Yakuza than students. Takashi is terrified at first, but soon decides that it's his mission to reform the school. And then a lot of weird stuff happens.
It's really not possible to encapsulate this movie, after introducing Takashi it turns into a series of comedy sketches that are only loosely linked together. The problem is that many of these skits aren't very funny and really fall flat. A few of them are humorous, but those are the minority.
The problem is that this adaptation, while it takes a lot from the manga, often flubs the jokes themselves. One of the better gags in the anime is when Takashi and his friends discover Mechazawa, a robot that attends the school. Not only is it strange that a robot is going to school, but Takashi is the only one who realizes that Mechazawa isn't human. They replay that same scene in this movie, but they never mention that everyone thinks he's human, totally blowing the main part of the gag.
Not everything in the movie is taken directly from the comic or anime show either, but much of these new gags don't work well either. In one new bit all of the thugs in school decided that they'll look cool if they all eat bananas. A group walks across campus throwing banana skins everywhere until the all slip and fall in unison. A very predictable gag that didn't work well.
That's not to say that all of the bits fail. Some of them are outrageously funny. The section where the class creates the Global Defense Force to save the Earth from, well, no real threat, is pretty funny. Wandering around looking for a mission, Takashi decides that drugs are a real problem in Japan. Luckily a rich kid is in the group, so they use his father's money to buy up all the drug in the country. Then, looking at a huge warehouse filled with narcotics, the group has to decide what to do with all of the illicit material. Again it's Takashi who comes up with the solution. Since they are worth a lot of money, they'll donate the drugs to all the needy children in the world. The whole "giving drugs to kids" plan doesn't work out well.
Overall, the funny sections are outnumbered by the parts that don't work. The last 1/3 of the film, where a pair of aliens (named Gori and Lla who look like gorillas, get it??) invade the school is particularly weak. If you haven't seen the anime or read the manga, it will be rather hard to get a handle on this film also. While it is a noble attempt, this live action film doesn't do the source material justice.
This DVD has a Japanese sound track with optional English subtitles in either stereo or 5.1. While the audio track itself sounded fine, the subtitles left a little to be desired. There were few instances of bad grammar and poorly constructed sentences. Phrases like "We've got to take the last resort." pop up occasionally, but it's not so frequent as to ruin the film.
The widescreen (1.78:1) anamorphic image was very good. The colors were bright and the level of detail was very good. Even in dark areas things were easy to discern. Digital defects were very rare, making this a nice looking disc.
Unfortunately, the extras don't have English subtitles, so it's a little hard for me to evaluate them. There is a half hour featurette that has a reporter interviewing people on the Cromartie sets, a trailer, and actor profiles.
I had high hopes for this film, but when all is said and done it just isn't as funny as it should be. I'm a fan of the manga and anime show, but this live action film fails to capture the outrageous free wheeling atmosphere of that the other version have. Though there are some funny sections that are worth seeing, sitting through the rest of the film isn't very enjoyable. Rent it.