Mr. Go Was the Craziest Gorilla Baseball Movie You Never Saw | The Big Picture


Over the weekend on the film review show while
talking about the new movie Hustlers (which is extremely good by the way, but… you already
knew that because you watch both shows, right? …right? …uh …you guys know I
do this for money… to live, and eat…right?), [crickets chirping] but yeah in the course of that
I made a reference to well-worn formula movie premises and included, as a joke, “animals
that play sports;” opting to use as the visual example, something other than Air Bud
because… uh… reasons. That do not involve having to use expensively-imported foreign
Blu-rays for work in some way if I want to write them off at the end of the year. …yeah. Anyway a bunch of people asked “What the hell was that thing with the baseball gorilla??”
so here’s that: Movies! Are! Weird!!! Based loosely on a 1986 comic book, Mr. Go
was a 2013 Korean/Chinese co-production built around a reworking of its
original premise but mostly around establishing its filmmakers and special-effects animation
house Dexter Digital as a prime-time player in the feature-film CGI game; in other words
a blockbuster of the type familiar to watchers of the Chinese and Korean big-budget film scenes of the time: The “prove we can pull this off” Hollywood-style family crowd pleaser; where internal logic
takes a back seat to “yeah, that would look cool!” In any case, Mr. Go is about a Chinese circus gorilla who’s been trained to hit home runs
with a baseball bat who get’s signed by a South Korean baseball team to… come and
do that based on the Air Bud principal of no one ever technically making a rule that
says they aren’t allowed to do that. And if you’re thinking “Okay, a movie
about teaching a gorilla to hit baseballs should be pretty interesting!” …Mr. Go is
not that movie. In fact, the film essentially opens by matter-a-factly saying, “So, yeah we’re a Circus and we taught a gorilla to play baseball. That seemed like a thing to do,
y’know?” and then dives directly into it’s main plot setup: The gorilla, technically
named “Ling Ling,” is the performing partner of a Chinese circus-raised orphan named Weiwei
who, saddled with the role of ringmaster and a mountain of debt owed to a sleazy gang after the death of her adoptive grandfather, accepts an offer to bring Ling
Ling across the border to play in the KBO Major Leagues from a publicity-chasing “super
agent” named Mr. Sung; infamous in the league as “The Human Bounty Hunter” for his skill
at signing new talents… but also quickly shuffling them out of Korean baseball
into the more lucrative Japanese and American major leagues.
Oh also there’s a quickly-introduced subplot about the circus trying and failing to teach
a much more aggressive, impossible to tame breed of mountain gorilla named Lei Ting to
also pitch… ya’ know, so so much for wondering where Act 3 is going to go. [epic music] But yeah, there’s your basic movie: Weiwei and Ling (rechristened “Mr. Go” for marketing purposes)
adapt to sports celebrity life in the big city and the tensions of the backroom contract
politics between Sung, the KBO, the team manager and the owners of interested rival Japanese
baseball clubs who might want to sign the gorilla themselves. And if you’re thinking:
“That sounds like a lot of sports business politics for a monkey baseball comedy…”
you’d be right. That’s the main thing that makes Mr. Go even more bizarre than its premise would already suggest: It’s a lot more like Moneyball than it is like
Air Bud; mostly on the basis that the only way its visual hook can exist is to assume
that Mr. Go himself exclusively hits massive home runs as opposed to having to shoot complicated
scenes of baseball strategy with the impressive CGI gorilla. Otherwise, it just
kind of assumes that the basic beats of a “fish out of water” lovable-doofus sports
sports star comedy will consistently be funny so long as you can always
go: “Oh, hey… there’s a gorilla there. That shouldn’t… be.” The answer to which turns out to be… yeah, pretty much: Again, this whole run of early-2010s FX-heavy Chinese-backed family comedies (whether produced
wholly in Mainland China or otherwise, as is the case here) tend to have a very specific “reverse engineered
from its own advertising” feel to; and Mr. Go has this vibe even more than most; with
the “things are going well” portion of its second act compressed almost entirely into what is basically the trailer for “Mr. Go” – an extended slapstick montage of monkey-baseball pratfalls
and money shots set to Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life,” aka “Sports Movie Trailer Song
number 5.” Though to its credit this is mostly so the
plot can take a somewhat unexpected leftward turn during the otherwise der-rigeur pre-Act
3 “All Is Lost” moment… “The ‘All is Lost’ moment!” wherein Mr. Go is facing a sports injury and the bad gorilla
has shown up signed to a rival team where the film takes a moment for Sung
to raise the issue of… ya’ know, this isn’t at all how gorillas actually work
and that it’s kind of absurdly suspect that everyone is just taking this kid’s word
that she can “speak gorilla” or that Ling Ling has been doing anything other than what
he wanted to do this whole time. “Wait… is our entire premise just completely
stupid, and we’ve just been going along with it because we also thought ‘Baseball
Gorilla’ would be a fun thing to do for awhile? …were we just gonna keep running
with this until someone got seriously h- …” Of course Mr. Go is a family movie so once
the Good and Less-Good-But-Really-Just-Misunderstood gorillas have had their showdown and lessons
have been learned there’s a nice happy ending, re-affirmation of family and What Really Matters
and… yeah, all things considered I’m not sure there’s a better movie you could
make out of this concept? Things work out basically okay. The film actually disappointed at the Korean box-office since
it opened against some fairly stiff competition from both home and abroad (which might be why they didn’t bother bringing this to the United States in an official capacity) but it was a surprisingly big hit in China. It also ends with a tease
for a sequel – which they probably aren’t going to make, but I’d still kinda ready want to see it if I’m being honest. But, a yeah. That Mr. Go. You asked and now you know what that is. I’m Bob and that’s The Big Picture.

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