Notzilla Image

Notzilla

By Bradley Gibson | March 30, 2021

Notzilla is a bit of screwball fun that spoofs, of course, all the Godzilla movies. A Japanese scientist, Ichihiro Honda (Frederic Eng-Li), finds an egg floating in the sea from the monster herself after an epic battle and smuggles it onto a flight to the United States.

Through an unfortunate airliner lavatory malfunction, he winds up dumping the egg in the Ohio River near Cincinnati. Unbeknownst to everyone, once hatched, this particular monster-baby, which Honda describes as normally about the size of a man in a foam rubber suit, will grow uncontrollably large when it consumes alcohol (instead of radiation).

Of course, since Cincinnati has at least one brewery, the cute-as-a-button little kaiju starts drinking beer and turns into the multi-story menace that’s so familiar, except for looking like your favorite childhood stuffy. The rest of the story is just Kaiju mad-libs. There’s a power-mad American scientist named Blowheart (Tim Bensch) running a secret nuclear power lab (in Cincinnati?), a media-obsessed Army general who’s less interested in killing the monster than he is in being filmed on his good side, and the beautiful, but shy, lady scientist, Shirly Yujest (Tifani Ahren Davis). There are more madcap (but instantly forgettable) characters with silly names to flesh things out.

“…once hatched, this particular monster-baby…will grow uncontrollably large when it consumes alcohol

The dialogue is just extended riffing. If you took the comments made by the MST3K crew during a kaiju movie and put them into script form, Notzilla is what you’d get. Characters are named for physical attributes (Bloch sounds like Black and is African-American. Shortman is not tall, and so on). Writer-director Mitch Teemley gets uncomfortably close to racist and sexist stereotypes but never crosses the line. These days, though, being edgy by playing with race and misogyny is enough to make viewers uneasy. On the positive side, the Japanese scientist is named Honda — a nice homage to the director of the original 1954 Godzilla.

Ultimately, Teemley does a decent job of imitating Abrahams/Zucker parody comedy classics like Airplane! It’s just not clear if Notzilla is different enough to bring anything new and interesting to the formula. Kaiju films are campy, but not because they are designed to be, but because of when, how, and where they were made. They were not originally meant for American audiences, so there’s a certain offbeat charm to them. Teemley is trying to force his film into campiness, and that’s difficult magic to capture on purpose. In this case, the movie is just not very funny. The sets, however, are clever. They are constructed in layers, reminiscent of scenes like the graveyard in Plan 9 From Outer Space. The camera is fixed, and the actors move through the shots side-scrolled, like Mickey Mouse in a multiplane image.

This is all entertaining to a certain extent, but Notzilla is just one note, poking fun at already campy kaiju films, and overstays its welcome. It might have worked better as a short, as there’s just not enough juice here to sustain a feature-length production. The little kaiju is awfully cute, though, and some of the gags are humorous enough to justify a viewing.

Notzilla (2020)

Directed and Written: Mitch Teemley

Starring: Christina Steiner, Jason Mei, Frederic Eng-Li, Tim Bensch, etc.

Movie score: 6/10

Notzilla Image

"…the little kaiju is awfully cute..."

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