Gung Ho | Chicago Reader

Gung Ho

Ron Howard works very close to the Capra model in directing this message comedy (he even borrows Capra's trademark scene of moral redemption through public humiliation), but the material just isn't as funny as it needs to be to cover the constant editorializing. Michael Keaton stars as a small-town labor leader who convinces a Japanese firm to take over his city's bankrupt auto factory; the new owners try to impose Japanese work habits, but the lovably individualistic, fun-loving Americans aren't having any. The development of the drama hangs entirely on racist attitudes, but the issue of racism has been carefully (and implausibly) erased from the dialogue—this is a “clash of cultures,” and even the most rabidly redneck characters refrain from any untoward epithets. The grand finale exhorts Americans and Japanese to work together to solve their problems, but from where I was sitting it looked like the Japanese just gave in to what is portrayed as the moral and emotional superiority of the American way of life—and somehow I had the feeling I'd just seen a comedy remake of Rocky IV. With Gedde Watanabe, George Wendt, Mimi Rogers, and John Turturro.

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