Fantastic Fest 2013 Review: KIDS POLICE Gets Big Laughs From Small Heroes
Writer-director Fukuda Yuichi brings his own TV series Kodomo Keisatsu (aka Kids Police) to the big screen in impressive fashion, with this slick, frequently amusing action comedy that enthusaistically embraces its ridiculous premise and succeeds in large part thanks to a showcase of impressive child performances.
When evil terrorist organisation Red Venus inflicts a powerful nerve gas on the elite SID unit of the Yokohama police department, they succeed in transforming seven of its top operatives into children. Now trapped in pre-teen bodies and forced to live double lives both as innocent kids and the city's best crime fighters, the Kids Police are determined to bring Red Venus to justice and retrieve the antidote to return them to their former adult selves.
Yes, the premise for Kids Police is absurd, taking the idea of child actors playing adults one huge step beyond what Alan Parker did in Bugsy Malone. Here it is acknowledged that the leads look like children - physically they are! - but they still have the minds, hearts and professional integrity of seasoned professional law enforcers, which only adds to the comedy.
While Kids Police is ultimately, much like Fukuda's other comedy from this year Hentai Kamen, a one-joke movie stretched out to feature length, it's a hell of a good joke, and Fukuda has 11 episodes of TV series to fall back on when developing back stories and real world problems for his septet of diminutive heroes. These cops had relationships, families and home lives that were completely upended when they were turned, giving Fukuda plenty of scope for comedy.
Chief (Suzuki Fuku) sees his relationship hit the skids after 30-odd years are knocked off his physical appearance. Likewise, hotheaded young detective Enamel (Aizawa Yuga) continues his pursuit of the beautiful Eriko (Kitano Kie), who is actually willing to continue dating him in public (despite him now looking like her kid brother), although phyical intimacy must take a backseat until he grows up again.
Elsewhere, tech expert Smart (Akimoto Rei) is placed with a new fake family, who wants him to quit the police and become a child actor, while no-nonsense, fashion-conscious Maiko (Honda Miyu) finds herself courted by a pre-teen classmate while undercover at a local junior high school.
The child performances are impeccable and Fukuda does a great job of milking the comedic potential from these shifts in their personal lives. Frequently we see adults being overpowered and beaten up by our pint-sized protagonists, and there's a good running joke about their new mate, Rookie, who is bullied and demeaned relentlessly despite being at least a decade their physical senior. No doubt the TV series goes even further exploring how the transformation has impacted the cops' personal lives, but Fukuda has found a good balance here between milking the scenario for laughs and propelling the action forward.
Kids Police is definitely suitable for younger audiences, while older viewers should get plenty from the film's keen knowledge of the cop genre and willingness to wring its own absurd set-up for all its worth. The young cast, in specially tailored suits and brilliantly coiffed hairpieces, have all come over from the original TV show and have their roles down pat, and Kids Police is all the better for it.
Perhaps there's a missed opportunity here to comment more seriously on male immaturity in modern Japanese society, or the perpetual struggle to balance professional and personal lives, but Fukuda just wants to have fun, and as a slice of Saturday morning family entertainment, Kids Police more than delivers. NANI!!??!!