Waterboys (2001)

Directed by
Reviewed by Simon on 2003-01-31

It's a Japanese comedy about a group of male synchronised swimmers - how cool is that!?

Well, "not very", you'd be forgiven for thinking... certainly I wouldn't have been interested, if not for consistently positive low level press amongst the internet community. Thankfully, the warm response is quite justified - Waterboys takes its seemingly mundane premise (perhaps more resonant in patriarchal Japan) and turns it into a delightful little comedy.

Suzuki is the only member of the swimming team at Tadano Boy's High School... until the new swimming teacher arrives and she is an extremely "hot babe". Suddenly everybody wants to be on the swim team... until they discover that what she teaches is Synchronised Swimming. Apparently, this is considered an extremely non-manly thing to do in Japan. Only five pupils decide to stick with it anyway, for personal reasons that you will discover through the course of the movie. Everyone laughs at them, ridicules them and above all doubts them... so naturally the impetus to succeed is strong.

Waterboys is a genre movie at heart, taking the standard sports movie misfits and putting them through trials and tests to see what heights they can rise to under pressure. Nothing too surprising, but it's all dressed up quite charmingly here. Quirky characters genuinely engage your interest and affections, and the humour is brisk and mostly absurd. The script treads familiar ground without it ever seeming tired or cliched, finding new ways of exploring each situation. It's a funny movie, a very sweet movie and a highly enjoyable one.