|Hey look, they spoiled the entire movie with one poster.|
Why would a Japanese auto manufacturer buy a closed American auto manufacturer's auto plant if the decision to reopen the site wasn't already made? That's the premise behind "Gung-Ho", starring Michael Keaton, Gedde Watanabe, George Wendt, and Clint Howard. Keaton plays Hunt Stevenson, a shop foreman that was laid off when the auto plant was working for decided to close down their manufacturing. Leaving the town and it's residents in a limbo, not really knowing what to do. Word gets around that a Japanese automaker (Assan Motors) has purchased the plant, the people of the fictional town of Hadleyville, Pennsylvania get excited about their futures again. There is only one problem, the Japanese haven't made the decision on whether or not they are going to use the plant for manufacturing.
Therein lies one of the problems with this movie. What company would make an economic decision like that? That's a large sum of money being spent on the idea that they might not even use the space for their needs. It's preposterous. It's lazy writing and Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, who cut their teeth writing such great shows as Laverne and Shirley and Happy Days, seemed to have phoned this one in.
At the beginning of the film, where we're introduced to Keaton and the rest of the American crew of auto workers, we see that they seemed to be lazy, slovenly, boastful, and let's face it, just plain rude people. They don't care, they shortcut everything they do, and they just want to get to the weekend where they can party it up and be just like the American's the rest of the world expects that we are.
Keaton tells his guys that he's going to Japan to convince the new owners that it would be worth their time and effort to reopen the plant, because the Americans have the know-how and the experience to be able to craft vehicles that are just as good, if not better, than the Japanese can do, and Keaton is good in his role. He's quirky and funny and interesting, but the story just doesn't pull its weight. When Keaton gets to Japan, he gets to see first hand how the Japanese run their companies, how they measure success and how they deal with failures, which is where we're introduced to Gedde Watanabe (you remember Long Duck Dong?), who is, for lack of a better explanation, receiving shame for being a complete failure.
Keaton is brought into the board room, where he convinces the company that they should open the plant, giving them a presentation, that is the exact opposite of what the Americans are really like. The company, realizing that this is probably a mistake, sends over Watanabe and some of his other cohorts, who are also company embarrassments, to see if they have what it takes to run the company on American soil.
This movie is a farce. The way that it's written seems like they are all just part of a big joke that doesn't pay off. It's fun to watch and the actors in the movie do a great job with the dialogue, but it seems that it's just a badly written TV movie. Funny enough, this movie was turned in to a half hour TV show not long after the movie came out, with most of the same cast and to be honest, the writing was probably a bit better than the movie.
Gung-Ho is an OK movie, not great, not terrible. Michael Keaton and Gedde Watanabe are good in their respective roles, but the overall movie is, in hindsight, ineffective and pretty much an offense to workers, both Japanese and American, just for the sake of showing how business like the Japanese are and how rigid and uptight they are and how slovenly the Americans are.
Gung Ho (1986)
PG-13 | 1h 51min | Comedy, Drama | 14 March 1986 (USA)
When a Japanese car company buys an American plant, the American liaison must mediate the clash of work attitudes between the foreign management and native labor.
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Edwin Blum (story), Lowell Ganz (story)
Stars: Michael Keaton, Gedde Watanabe, George Wendt