Fantastic Fest Review: MARUYAMA THE MIDDLE SCHOOLER: Weenie Licking With Tons Of Heart And Humor

You'd do it if you could.

Let's say you're a boyfriend, and you're lucky enough to have a girlfriend. One day, the two of you decide to watch a film. But which film should you watch?

You suggest Maruyama The Middle Schooler. Naturally, she asks what it's about. Knowing very little about the film, you give her the one sentence summary that has already come to define it: "It's about a middle school boy on a quest to lick his own weenie."

Sure, that got you interested in the film. But that's because you're a weirdo. Other people might not be so inclined to spend two hours watching an underage actor laying on his back while trying to lower his groin into his face.

So instead of the weenie licking thing, maybe you could just tell her, "Evan Saathoff says it's the most 2nd most adorable film of 2013." You might have better luck with that because it makes the film sound more like what it actually is, and also because your lady is in love me.

Maruyama is not the funniest movie I've seen this year (R100!), and it's probably not the most adorable film of the year either, though it would be if not for Kid's Police. But put them both together, and we have a specific enough category to justify superlative language. Maruyama is the funniest adorable film I've seen this year. I am head over heels in love with it.

On a micro level, Maruyama begins as a story about a hyper-imaginative boy who really wants to lick his own weenie. On a macro level, it's about the lives of his family and various other inhabitants of his apartment complex. By the time it's over, we've seen a handful of touching, hilarious stories play out separately only to come together in a madcap super heroic action sequence that pays off every detail leading up to it in unexpected fashion.

Maruyama does everything just right. It boasts a high level of comic writing, while taking every opportunity to deliver dialog, characters, and situations that are inventive, detailed, and charmingly strange. I mean, it's a subtitled film in which a boy really does spend a lot of time and energy trying to lick his own weenie, so it's audience is limited. But if you were to just sit unsuspecting people down in front of it, the concentrated charm might just win them over.

I'll tell you what about the weeny licking. It's not that big a deal. Everyone's tried it (not me). Even really ambitious ladies probably give it a shot. Poor Maruyama wants it more than anything else. So he stretches. And he stretches and stretches and stretches. He stretches so much that sometimes his spine cracks and he hallucinates. In one such hallucination, he dances naked in a park surrounded by topless female dancers. It's adorable.

When not trying to lick his weenie, Maruyama has an eye out on his dorky new neighbor, a klutzy single father who picks and prods at fellow neighbors for not following even the most arbitrary and ignorable rules. There are people dying in the area, and Maruyama gets it in his head that this neighbor guy could be the culprit.

Eventually Maruyama begins to feel bad about his suspicions and fesses up, going so far as handing over a notebook filled with theories about and drawings of the neighbor as evidence indicating how far his suspicion went (because the neighbor constantly walks around with a stroller, he is redubbed Lone Wolf and Cub). Rather than get angry, the neighbor encourages Maruyama to continue writing these stories.

I didn't go through all that just to burn up words. Maruyama's exploits as a comic writer are incredibly important to why this film is so cool. We get to know quite a few various and well-defined characters throughout Maruyama the Middle Schooler. The recasting of Maruyama's entire apartment complex as players in an action packed saga of assassinations and revenge that includes more badass versions of everyday characters we already enjoy and adds a core element of unexpected fun to the film. Then all that gets cooler to the power of two as real events begin to mirror the stories.

So the kid tries to lick his weenie. So what? When you see him try, it's totally adorable. This is also a film in which an elderly guy enters into a sweet romance with a ten year old girl, and I don't see anyone pooping their pants over that.

Maruyama is an incredibly well crafted, hilarious film steeped in almost constant sweetness, but also containing parts that are both badass and goofy at the same time. I understand that my tastes can at times be idiosyncratic. Maybe this is one of those times. If it turns out the whole world is against me, I still win because I that means the whole world saw Maruyama the Middle Schooler.

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