Ikuo and Tatsuo are about as unlikely a pair of brothers as you’re ever likely to see. Ikuo is the oldest. A skinny, bespectacled geek, he’s obsessed with “manzai,” a bizarre form of two-man stand-up comedy that’s hugely popular in Japan. His younger brother Tatsuo, on the other hand, got all the looks in the family. A lanky, long-haired hunk, Tatsuo fights off women with a stick.
By day, the brothers work at the family-owned funeral home their parents operate. By night, they’re aspiring “manzai” performers, doing poorly received shows at a seedy strip joint. One night, tired of being jeered off the stage, Tatsuo drops his drawers and flashes his freakishly large member. As the astonished crowd, including a struggling TV producer looking for a new gimmick, looks on, the brothers ad-lib a crude, vulgarity-filled act revolving around the anatomical disparity between the size of their genitals. Much to their surprise, the formerly hostile audience cheers and applauds wildly.
Smelling a hit, the shameless producer signs them onto his show with the intention of “bleeping” out all the naughty words. While “Take my wife, please!” may no longer be funny, apparently “Take my *bleep*-ing wife, you *bleep*-ing *bleep*-*bleep*-ing, *bleep*-er!!!” is, at least in Japan. Soon, the show is a runaway hit and the brothers are superstars.
Yet, all is not well. For as their fame and fortune grow, it opens up lifelong resentments and a festering rivalry between the brothers. It also changes the once-humble Ikuo, driving a wedge between him and Fumie, the quietly beautiful love of his life.
As the show’s insatiable demand for new material and ever-more *bleeps* consumes the Bleep Brothers, it threatens to destroy Ikuo and Tatsuo, pushing the limit on how far they’ll go for their act and shattering their grip on reality.
Director Yoshiyasu Fujita is way ahead of Americans on this one. While we celebrate the Machiavellian schemings of “Survivor” champ Richard Hatch and sink further and further into the depths of tabloid/reality TV hell, Fujita has crafted a film that’s both wildly amusing, yet deeply cautionary. Hiding behind this film’s facade of cheap laughs, jiggling breasts and crude humor is a cynical and scathing indictment of our tendency to reach for the lowest common denominator. “The Bleep Brothers” also provides a gentler but thorough exploration of sibling rivalry, as well as an admonishment to remain true, both to those who care for you, as well as to yourself.
Having said all that, the film is also good for quite a few laughs. While the plentiful “manzai” segments take some getting used to, some of the humor no doubt getting lost in the subtitled translation, the brothers’ dryly dour parents and the sleazy goings-on at the TV station provide enough other laughs to supplement the hit and miss “manzai.”
At just over two hours in length, “The Bleep Brothers” is not the most efficient film ever. Some may even find the social and cultural differences between American films and this Japanese offering to be too daunting. Yet this raucous farce is that rare film that educates while it entertains…and does so without being all *bleep*-ing pedantic about it.