Multimedia artist Takashi Murakami’s self-conscious “super-flat” style of Jeff Koons–inspired pop art fails to improve the experience of watching Jellyfish Eyes, an exhausting children’s movie helmed by Murakami. The thematic focus on moral relativism has the potential to be interesting, but watching unmemorable child protagonists repeatedly fight and bond with each other and a bunch of F.R.I.E.N.D.s, tacky-looking Pokémon-esque monsters, is unproductively exhausting.
Jellyfish Eyes offers series of intensifying conflicts that are almost immediately solved right after they’re escalated. In the beginning, introverted middle-schooler Masahi (Takuto Sueoka) takes on pugnacious classmates with the help of Kurage-bo, a googly-eyed jellyfish-like F.R.I.E.N.D. that flies around, purses its lips, and eats mass quantities of string cheese. Masahi and his peers clash for about 50 minutes. Then Masahi helps his enemies challenge Koh (Arata Ishikawa), a gifted (but vindictive!) F.R.I.E.N.D.-tamer. In time, everyone who isn’t an adult or an inanimate object teams up and fights a phallic many-eyed whale-monster named Oval.
That repetitive chain of conflicts might be more exciting if Murakami knew what to do with his child protagonists. Masahi and his friends are always at peak sugar-rush levels of excitement, making it impossible to enjoy their hormonal feuding. Also, the Murakami-designed F.R.I.E.N.D.s are rarely so visually striking that they’re superficially compelling, making the scenes where Masahi bonds with Kurage-bo and friends look like turgid special-effects showcases. Jellyfish Eyes may be blessedly unpretentious, but it’s also immediately unmoving and relentlessly boring.
Directed by Takashi Murakami
Opens July 15, IFC Center
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 14, 2015