The material on-screen is very broadly played. It’s not a subtle story — tall girl and short boy, both feeling limited by their heights, become friends over their shared taste in bad music, maybe leading to more — but the manga, with the additional space it has, develops the characters more and conveys a wide range of emotions believably. In the movie, the blend of over-the-top slapstick comedy and heartfelt moments feels very jumpy and shallow. Too much is compressed into less than two hours, with too many events from the manga shoehorned in. Also, lots isn’t explained, so readers of the manga will have a definite advantage in understanding the characters and their relationships.
Visually, much of the movie is distracting. The female lead looks 16 (with huge ears), the male lead looks 25, and another female high school friend looks 30-something. (That friend’s relationship consists of telling her boyfriend “buy me this and I’ll do things for you with my body.”) They all act like they’re 12. And if she’s so worried about being tall, why does she wear her hair like Pebbles, in a ponytail on top of her head?
There’s a fine line between funny and disturbing, and this movie crosses it a lot. There’s a pop-up narrator covered in stuffed monkeys (I have no idea why), and a really creepy sister. I kept waiting for her to snap and kill someone, because she looks psychotic in a Frankenstein kind of way. It’s narrated in bad English, perhaps to give it more of a wacky flavor, and colorful Japanese characters appear on-screen for additional visual distraction. Unfortunately, they often collide with the subtitles.
Once the movie gets to the point where the super-teacher shows up and plays the short guy in basketball, it leaves the manga released so far behind, so readers should be warned that upcoming events will be spoiled for them. That plotline encapsulates the Japanese tendency to keep trying even in the face of certain defeat, although to my eyes, I kept wondering who’d let a teacher get away with this kind of stuff.
DVD extras include an interlocking set of three extra scenes and lots of short trailers. Plus, the package includes a print sample of the manga, which is great cross-promotion. You can find out more at the official website. (A complimentary DVD for this review was provided by the studio.)