Whenever a popular sitcom gets its own movie spin-off, there’s always a sense of trepidation amongst fans: will something vital be lost in the transition from the small to the big screen? Can a show that normally lasts only half an hour sustain a longer running time?
Well, the good news for fans of People Just Do Nothing is they needn’t worry about Kurupt FM’s movie debut – this is a consistently hilarious and oddly moving big-screen showcase for MC Grindah (Allan Mustafa), DJ Beats (Hugo Chegwin), and the rest of the gang.
Like many a film adapted from a sitcom before it, People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan opts for the approach of taking familiar characters and putting them in an unfamiliar situation. In this case, as the title suggests, that situation is a trip to Japan (“the best city in the world” according to Grindah) – where against all odds, one of Kurupt’s songs has been used in a mega-hit game show.
Sniffing a chance for global stardom, the ever opportunistic Chabuddy G (Asim Chaudry) reunites the boys – who have been working in new jobs since Kurupt FM dissolved three years earlier (Grindah as a postman, Beats at a bowling alley where he uses his MC voice for tannoy announcements) and arranges a trip, positive that their newfound exposure will see them easily winning a recording contract.
Although the boys are naturally excited about finding the success they reckon they’ve always deserved, it soon becomes clear that not everything will be as plain-sailing as they assumed (and not just when it comes to acclimatising to a different culture). In fact, upon being put in touch with a record label, it turns out their new boss has plans to promote them not as a pirate radio station, but as a boy band. A few dance lessons, an excruciating photoshoot and an embarrassing name change later, a major rift emerges: is it worth becoming successful if they aren’t true to their pirate radio and UK garage roots?
As was the case for much of the TV show, some of the best storylines are reserved for Chabuddy G and DJ Steves (Steve Stamp). The former finds himself sidelined by the more competent, suit-wearing Taka (Ken Yamamura) – who assumes the role of Kurupt’s manager and leaves a dejected Chabuddy moping around the hotel trying to reclaim his rightful place, while the always gormless Steves somewhat accidentally strikes up an intriguing relationship with Taka’s fixer Miki (Hitomi Souno), leading to the unlikely prospect of a possible romantic connection. Meanwhile, of all the main characters, it’s Miche (Lily Brazier) who gets the short straw, with a far weaker storyline that largely relegates her to the background following an initial plot point that sees her briefly unable to join the gang in Japan.
The longer running time means the laughs per minute ratio suffers ever-so-slightly when compared to the show, but there are still more than enough riotous moments packed into the runtime to keep the chortles coming thick and fast. As in the series, often the biggest of those laughs come not from the big set-pieces, but from the smaller moments: the little turns of phrase, the little looks to camera, the casually delusional statements and so on. These actors are just so masterful with their line deliveries and comic timing that even a relatively minor line can produce a proper guffaw.
And that’s not to say the bigger moments don’t work either – watching Grindah lose what little amount of composure he possesses as he reluctantly takes part in an episode of the famous game show (decked out in lycra, no less) is a delight, while later there is a brilliant reveal when it seems like his bandmates have deserted him ahead of a big concert. If there’s a downside, it’s that perhaps some of the culture clash comedy can be a little too broad at times, but this still leads to some great moments – including one scene in which Grindah asks Taka if he is referring to five minutes in “English time or Japanese time.”
The best sitcoms are never just about the jokes though – they make us care deeply about the characters, no matter how terrible they might be. That was always the case with People Just Do Nothing, which somewhat miraculously ensured that despite his delusions of grandeur and sometimes downright unpleasant behaviour Grindah always remained a sympathetic character. The same is true here, and the final act of the film is genuinely quite affecting in spite of its inherent absurdity. A karaoke version of The Streets’ classic Dry Your Eyes, performed by Beats and Steves (but mainly just Steves) is not just hilarious but also genuinely rather moving, while there is also, of course, a rousing rendition of Heart Monitor Riddem (“Bang! Lyrical blow to the jaw.”) to close things out.
And yet, at the end of it all, Grindah still hasn’t learned the art of humility, pinning the blame for everything that went wrong firmly at the feet of Beats. He’s not quite capable of permanent personal growth, and to be honest, we wouldn’t have it any other way. The film, then, is a worthy follow-up to the brilliance of the series: it has plenty of humour and plenty of heart, and best of all it doesn’t change a thing about the characters we knew and loved from the small screen. Fingers crossed this isn’t the last we see of Kurupt FM.