Picks and Pans Review: Gung Ho

updated 03/31/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/31/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Randolph Scott fans may be disappointed that this is not a remake of his 1943 combat epic. But director Ron (Cocoon) Howard does seem to be refighting World War II in this movie about a Japanese auto company that opens a plant in an economically troubled Pennsylvania town. Dwelling bitterly on racism, ignorance, sexism, unemployment and despair, this ostensible comedy isn't funny. In one key scene, Michael (Johnny Dangerously) Keaton, who plays the leader of the American workers at the plant, sneers at Gedde (Volunteers) Watanabe, the manager, because Japan lost the war. Keaton seems to be the only one who knows the movie is even supposed to be funny. As much as he mugs and twitches, he is trapped in a series of loud arguments about Japanese management techniques. At times Howard and his Splash writers, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, seem to be flag-waving, burdening Keaton with a long union-hall speech about how U.S. workers are "getting our butts kicked"—no laughs intended, none generated. Only Watanabe's performance adds much human feeling. Howard himself is guilty of a strange kind of hypocrisy: He crows about American values, though he spent three weeks shooting in Argentina because he found a factory location there. In Cocoon he deftly blended comedy and social commentary. In Gung Ho—the title is not even Japanese, but Chinese for "work together"—he has made a film that is not much of anything except two hours long. (PG-13)

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