The Bleep Brothers (Japanese)

Did you hear the one about the strip-club comedians who became national sensations when they filthied up their act?

“The Bleep Brothers” tells us that story, while half-heartedly mocking popular culture and TV, and also presenting an old-fashioned sibling-rivalry dilemma.

Tatsuo and Ikuo Yoshida are brothers. Tatsuo is tall and handsome; Ikuo is nerdy and bespectacled. They work at their parents’ funeral home, but in their spare time perform manzai comedy at a local flesh parlor. Manzai is a two-man comedy dialogue, very similar to vaudeville in that it emphasizes one-liners and uses a straightman, and tends to induce more groans than laughs. The brothers are not especially good at it (though I suspect some of it may be lost in the translation); their claim to fame is Tatsuo’s hormone-induced, um, physical endowment, which he is not afraid to show to heckling crowds as a means of shutting them up.

Comedy isn’t really Tatsuo’s bag; he does it for his brother’s sake. One day, fed up with the whole thing, Tatsuo goes way off script and starts telling filthy stories about his sexual conquests. The audience eats it up. They find their way onto TV, where their heavily bleeped routine is a sensation. Soon even news reporters are swearing just to get that oh-so-trendy “bleep,” and the brothers are bona fide celebrities.

They start to run out of sex material, though, and Tatsuo finally confesses: He’s a virgin. He’s been making the stories up. Ikuo helps him overcome his fears, though, and starts eavesdropping, too, so they can use the real-life exploits in their act.

Meanwhile, Ikuo is developing a rather sweet relationship with Fumie, a local girl whose mother has recently passed away. Their budding romance is a pleasant contrast to the non-stop filth we’re treated to during the manzai acts.

Where the film stumbles is in its over-length and sappy ending. There are some eye-rolling contrivances, too, like the special live episode of the brothers’ TV show. Why is it live? So one of them can make startling accusations during it with no hope of editing it out later, of course — the only reason any TV show is ever done live in movies.

It often seems the film is trying to do too much at once, too. There is some satire of TV and TV audiences — the more crass and less creative the show gets, the more popular it is — but not much. We see only one example of other shows using the “bleep” style of delivery, yet we’re expected to understand that it’s a phenomenon (sorry, but one instance does not a phenomenon make).

The frenetic and witty tone of the movie is a saving grace, though. A little more focused on the theme and purpose, and we’d have ourselves a great movie. Is it stands, it’s funny and mostly entertaining — better than a manzai routine, but not much.

B- (; R, abundant harsh profanity, abundant sexual vulgarity, abundant sexuality and nudity.)