Starring: Yoshikazu Ebisu, Yôsuke Tagawa, Mika Mifune
Director: Takeki Kashima
Running Time: 118 mins
Local Bus Connection Trip The Movie is a Japanese documentary about three travellers who are challenged to get from the north of Taiwan to the island’s southernmost point in four days, using only local buses.
Without a shadow of doubt, this is one of the most surprising films I’ve ever watched. From what seems like a fairly mundane base premise, this movie is actually a massively entertaining, endlessly hilarious and even exciting and unpredictable watch from start to finish, as we follow three great personalities on a trip of obscure proportions, leaving me wetting myself with laughter and watching with my eyes glued to the screen.
Let’s start off with a quick explanation of what this movie exactly is, because it’s not exactly what you normally expect from either a movie or a documentary. In Japan, there’s a TV show called Local Bus Connection Trip, where Yoshikazu Ebisu and Yôsuke Tagawa explore the country by taking local buses. In effect, this is a blown-up, big-screen episode of that TV show, set overseas for the first time.
The film follows Ebisu and Tagawa, along with guest Mika Mifune, as they negotiate complex bus schedules, difficult weather and a large language barrier to get from the top of Taiwan all the way to the bottom. It may sound boring on the face of things, but believe me, there’s so much energy and humour in this film that it makes for an absolute heap of fun.
There’s so much that made me love this movie, but above all, it’s the lead trio that make for the most fun. Rather than being a film that focuses on the buses, it’s all a lot more about how the three go about solving various problems, discovering hidden treasures, and going on an epic and unpredictable adventure. I’m making it sound a little more spectacular than it actually is, but the fact remains that this film offers up a delightful collection of characters who all have great chemistry, and are just as entertaining to watch individually.
The various difficulties that the trio encounter along the way always make for good entertainment, but the funniest part of all is watching them negotiate the language and cultural divide, trying hard to explain their unique (and somewhat bizarre) mission to the locals, yet very often being met with bewilderment and confusion.
From start to finish, there’s so much that the three get up to throughout the movie, and that allows for absolutely hilarious hijinks right the way through. You may not expect it at first, but believe me, this is one of the most unexpectedly funny films I’ve seen in a very long time.
However, more than just a comedy, Local Bus Connection Trip The Movie is actually a rather exciting watch too. It’s not what you expect, and it’s definitely not aimed at bus enthusiasts, but instead the goal that the travellers are set opens the door for some proper unpredictability and tension.
With just four days to travel over 500km, the task seems daunting at first, particularly given that they cannot ride any highway buses, and must hop between small towns down the west coast of Taiwan, but then there’s the added excitement of there being an impending typhoon on the island, with intense stormy weather that threatens the operation of buses, and severely hampers their chances to make it all the way to the south in time.
Overall, I had an absolute whale of a time with this film. Completely surpassing my expectations, it’s a hilarious, engaging and even exciting watch from start to finish, complete with three great personalities in front of the camera, and a hugely enjoyable adventure that’s full of fantastic hijinks and surprises along the way, which is why I’m giving Local Bus Connection Trip The Movie an 8.8.