If you are reading this review then I imagine you saw the title Executive Koala, and thought, as I did, “how pleasantly absurd sounding. I must know more!” Plus with the picture above, which I had not seen when I decided to watch this film, you might assume this to be a potential Japanese horror cult classic. While Executive Koala is a bit too complex to be defined strictly as a horror film, I feel this film definitely could, if it hasn’t already, earn a strong cult fandom.
Executive Koala is the story of a Koala named Keiichi Tamura, who, aside from being a Koala, is a traditional Japanese businessman working for the Rubbles Pickles company. Keiichi is a well liked hard worker who, if all goes well, may succeed in helping Rubbles Pickles in a multi-million dollar deal with a Korean kimchi company. While Keichi is required to work late hours on the deal, he doesn’t mind as he gets to spend quality time with his human girlfriend immediately after work. Keiichi’s life is about to be turned upside down though, as Keiichi finds out the next day at work that his girlfriend has been killed, and that the detectives suspect him not only in her murder but also the disappearance, and potential murder, of his wife who mysteriously disappeared some years prior. Due to a lack of hard evidence, the detective investigates from the shadows primarily, allowing Keiichi to at least try to seal the kimchi deal. The memory of Keiichi’s wife begins to haunt him though and, as the audience only now discovers, due to Keiichi’s amnesia from the time of her disappearance he starts to wonder if he really is the killer. From there a wild ride ensues taking Keiichi, and the audience, into a medley of film references, dreams within dreams, quirky fight scenes, hilariously cheesey horror scenes, and even on onscreen musical within the movie.
My opinion of this film varied wildly for awhile, as I initially thought I’d love it, hated it when I thought nothing exciting was going to happen, and then loved the film again as the barrage of film spoofs began. In the end, I still came away with a positive opinion of the movie, largely because of how overtly over the top the whole film is. From the very beginning I imagined the film was going to use a real Koala, because in the only promotion I had seen at the time it shows a real Koala sitting in an office chair. Instead I get an obvious ‘guy in a Koala suit’ character, whose very presence makes every scene laughable. Keiichi’s very first scenes show him in an office environment, desperately pitching a proposal, trying to multi-task with cell phones, and generally just trying to be a salaryman. Of course, since the suit is just that, the poor actor has the hardest trouble with these tasks. Shortly thereafter we see the Koala and his girlfriend in bed, after an obvious bout of pleasure, and she says a cheesy line that I’ll paraphrase as “tonight you were an animal!” Later on when one of the detectives is trying to convince the other of Keiichi’s innocence, he flatly comes out and in disbelief looks at the guy and says “It’s a koala!” While I would have to spoil some scenes to go more in-depth with how zany this film gets, I’ll just add one final bit of hilarity which is the addition of two other animal characters. The first is Keiichi’s boss, who is a rabbit, and then a gas station attendant who is a frog. While I figure Keiichi would be much more hilarious being the only animal, I found Keiichi’s interactions with his boss to be very entertaining, even though many of their moments together are some of the more serious in the film. Truly I think you’ll find it is hard not to laugh when any two animals are on-screen together.
I do want to take some time and go into what I perceive to be a slew of movie spoofs/nods in this film. First of all, between the bout of amnesia and the detective’s insistence on Keiichi’s guilt, I felt a strong Memento/The Fugitive vibe. Progressing on into the story Execuitve Koala then treats us to several absurd horror scenes, including a rather lengthy scene where the killer is quite obviously show; however, somehow the victim is absolutely oblivious of the killer’s presence. One scene in particular, featuring the stereotypical ‘girl in a shower’, pays homage to so many horror films at once. Following that the references become less clear, but nods seem to be given to film noir classics, prison films, and kung fu films just to name a few. While you do not need to have watched many films to get the cliché nature of many of these scenes, I feel that’s an added bonus for those who have watched perhaps all too many movies.
When I watch a film titled Executive Koala, I am hoping for a fun and zany movie. In that sense, this film delivered and then some. Of course the movie is campy. Of course the movie is over-the-top, with an ending that defines deus ex machina. Of course the concept itself is absurd. However, since I received what I wanted, to me Executive Koala delivered. So though I will rate this film very highly, feel free to not compare it to traditional film making because that isn’t what Executive Koala is about. This film is about fun.
Score: 4.5 out of 5