I was a big fan of People Just Do Nothing back when it came out in 2012. I remember watching the pilot on BBC Three late one night and wondering to myself why this wasn’t a bigger and more popular show. Of course, several years later, the parody of current music is less relevant and the show is a little bit more popular, which is kinda what this film is about. People Just Do Nothing: Big In Japan is a fantastic satire about musicians’ credibility, selling out and watering-down their style in order to become famous, which is what I always used to harp-on about on whatwentwrongwith.com back when I used to focus on Hip-Hop music. This plot therefore, is right up my alley and I’m pleased to say that this continuation of the TV show is very funny and entertaining.
Before I get to the film, I’ll describe the show in case any of you missed it… People Just Do Nothing is a hilarious mockumentary about a four-man Garage crew-cum-pirate radio station known as “Kurupt FM” and their hapless manager. Almost in the same vein as Bill & Ted, we follow underachieving musicians MC Grindah, DJ Beats, Steves, Decoy, and Chabuddy G as they take drugs, DJ, MC, and never make it in the music scene. Along with Man Like Mobeen, People Just Do Nothing is one of the few comedy shows that represents regular working-class British people whilst successfully making us all laugh. After five series, People Just Do Nothing: Big In Japan, is basically a neat and satisfying conclusion to the BBC show. We follow the Brentford Massive as they travel to Japan after discovering that one of their tracks has been used on a popular game show “The Bang Bang Show”. Once in Tokyo and with their manager sidelined, Kurupt FM are told to change their name to “Bang Boys” (which Steves says sounds like a “paedophile ring” 🤣). They’re told to dance, change their costumes and haircuts, and perform at a pop concert as a boy band, because that’s the only way they’ll make cash and attain fame.
Personally, I thought that the show slowly lost that special ingredient that made it so good almost a decade ago. Just like Bill & Ted’s marriage in the sequel (but thankfully not as terrible as its threequel) the Kurupt crew slowly became family-men and we were introduced to new characters in the later series (namely Beats’ partner and son, and Miche’s boss) who brought a completely different feel to the show. Like I already mentioned, the other problem is that Garage music is well and truly in the past. This kind of spoof would have been welcome back in the late ’90s or early ’00s but it took until 2014 for the first series and seven more years for this mockumentary movie. Unfortunately, in that time, Garage and Grime have waned somewhat, other than a few old-school samples here and there. Thankfully, all these issues are handled in this film; the secondary characters are hardly in it, which means this serves as both a reunion or back-to-basics of the original cast and a follow-up. With comments about “’01 to ’04 – the golden era” and “2005 was when music got shit” this has everything to do with old-school vibes and nostalgia. With the audience being told that Kurupt FM has lasted for 15 years with only two songs, as well as Beats making a comment about dragging “it on for years”, this is a show penned by writers who understand what fans want.
So instead of making a miserable film about getting old and having kids a la Bill & Ted: Face The Music, the narrative of this movie really comes out of left-field. We begin with members of Kurupt FM years later working regular jobs. Grindah is a postman, Beats works in a Bowling Alley, Chabuddy G lives in his van and is still a wannabe entrepreneur and Steves is still taking copious amounts of drugs. With their Garage career seemingly in the past, their aspirations are rekindled after they discover potential fame and recognition on the other side of the globe.
Like the show, Big In Japan is a very convincing mockumentary (I remember when the first series aired there were lots of people on Twitter tweeting about the characters and show thinking they were real). The main characters (Allan Mustafa as MC Grindah, Hugo Chegwin as DJ Beats, Asim Chaudhry as Chabuddy G, Steve Stamp as Steves, Dan Sylvester as Decoy, and Lily Brazier as Lady Miche) are all given their time to shine. Chabuddy G is probably one of the best comedy characters of all time and it’ll probably be the best character that Chaudhry will ever play in his life. His “I came here with £5 and my brother’s passport” gag is repeated in this film but it’s as funny now as it was back in the day (judging by the massive laugh it got in the cinema along with the joke about G joining the Mile High Club ✊🍆). The two new characters are great additions: Taka (played by Ken Yamamura) who is an A&R and manager and basically Chabuddy’s nemesis and Miki (played by Hitomi Souno) who is Taka’s assistant and who adds a humourous drug-dealer/girlfriend relationship for Steves. In terms of direction, Jack Clough keeps it looking like the TV show rather than some overblown movie spin-off which is exactly what’s needed.
There’s some mild yet unneeded racism about “tiny Japanese” people, hating the taste of ramen and preferring to eat in McDonald’s, but then again, the Kurupt FM boys were always supposed to be likeable arseholes, with these scenes acting as a comment on Brits abroad, and the line about “gaijin” balancing things out. With Beats telling Steves “You’re exotic out here”, there’s lots of quick comments on foreigners and positive-prejudice. There’s (possibly) an inadvertent yet clever comment about Pirate radio with the Bang Boys’ gaudy seafaring costumes and Grindah’s defence of wearing them (a comment on Radio Caroline perhaps?). And on that note, I’m looking forward to Reggie Yates’ Pirates which looks promising, but I digress.
People Just Do Nothing was basically the Spinal Tap of my generation, or more accurately, Cyderdelic meets Fear Of A Black Hat. Kurupt FM’s (or rather MC Grindah’s) music is actually quite good (see their “Ragga Rap” in the above trailer as an example) which is why I compare this to both Cyderdelic and Fear Of A Black Hat, who had a couple of decent tracks to their made-up names. Dining out on “Bang (Heart Monitor Riddim)” for several years now (which I assume was parodying Casualty-sampling “Bound 4 Da Reload”) I was waiting for some new tracks or at least a Garage remix of Alphaville’s “Big In Japan” but sadly, this doesn’t happen.
Even if you don’t know about the TV show or their music, this film shows clips of the old series in the intro and the movie then works as a satire about compromising your art for fame, and it’s enjoyable whether you’re a fan of the TV programme or not. Incidentally, if you’re a fan of the group Screwball, Chabuddy G’s line about music industry snakes is very similar to their comedic skit in Y2K.
Whereas the term is usually attributed to drab British dramas like Military Wives, People Just Do Nothing: Big In Japan is a genuinely uplifting British film filled with genuine comedy, with non-stop laughs from the get-go right until the credits roll. With Miche’s line about everyone wanting to “be famous”, this mockumentary is also a comment on modern society, and even though most people won’t become famous or rich, their failure isn’t really a failure if they stick to what they do and focus on the small things; like Steves says in the film “make some spaghetti bolognaise”.
With critics online being quite lukewarm to this film rather than raving about it (pun intended) it’s almost like they missed the ever-relevant comment about the music industry and the entertainment industry as a whole. I guess the media are responsible for plugging watered-down pop shite to the mindless public, and one of the cogs in this corrupt system is hardly going to say this is a hilarious movie. Although I guarantee that in the years and decades to come, they’ll all be saying “No I didn’t enjoy it, but I loved it”.
These People Did Something.