How do you say rock-and-roll in Japanese?

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The boy band - with one ringer - played in "GS Wonderland" by (from left) Yosuke Asari, Takuya Ishida, Chiaki Kuriyama, and Hiro Mizushima. GS is "Group Sounds," or Western-influenced rock.

An effervescent satire of Japanese rock-and-roll in the 1960s, when Tokyo responded to the Britpop invasion with homegrown boy bands, GS Wonderland is where Sgt. Pepper meets Hello Kitty. (GS is Group Sounds, as the Japanese dubbed Western-influenced rock.)

Aspiring pop thrush Miku Ono (Chiaki Kuriyama, of Kill Bill Vol. I) wants to be the Dusty Springfield of Tokyo, but music industry agents and suits are interested only in boy quartets. This doesn't bode well for a male trio that likewise hopes to play the Tokyo Grand, venue for the hottest GS acts.

Kajii (Shinji Takeda), a newbie agent trying to make good, has the solution for both problems: Dress Miku as a boy, call him Mick, and make the trio a quartet, the Diamonds.

When the group's debut single flops, the label cuts the Diamonds new facets. Ordered to trade in the Sgt. Pepper uniforms for white ruffly shirts, sky-blue waistcoats and tights, the band, newly resembling Prince Valiant in quadruplicate, is renamed the Tightsmen. In this incarnation, they click with the audience - especially with female fans who find the androgynous Mick irresistible.

Visually and musically, Ryuichi Honda's film is bubblegum with an orange-pop chaser - sweet and fizzy fun.

 


GS Wonderland *** (out of four stars)

Directed by Ryuichi Honda, with Chiaki Kuriyama, Takuya Ishida and Hiro Mizushima. In Japanese with English subtitles.

Running time: 1 hour, 40 mins.

Parent's guide: No MPAA rating (girl posing as guy).

Playing at: Ritz East at 4:45 p.m. today; the Bridge at 7 p.m. tomorrow.


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl.