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The Happiness Of The Katakuris (NR)
Takashi Miike
Producers: Tetsuo Sasho, Hirotsugu Yoshid
Written by: Kikumi Yamagishi
Cast: † Kenji Sawada, Naomi Nishida, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Tetsuro Tanba, Kiyoshiro Imawano

Rating: out of 5

Japanese director Takashi Miikeís mixed genre, misfire of a film is a complex effort to tell the story of four generations of a family with one collective dream. Overall, the vibrant scene compositions are a sight for sore eyes, but the film falters in ways that are too glaring to overlook.

The Katakuri family (which consists of an aging grandfather (Tanba), a Mrs. Cleaver-type mom (Matsuzaka), an overly ambitious dad (Sawada), their ex-con son (Takeda), and a single daughter (Nishida) and her precocious little girl) come together to start a business in the foothills of an ominous mountain range. They struggle desperately to get their bed-and-breakfast operation off the ground and into profit heaven. But their few guests get to heaven before their profits do, and the family fears that their venture will soon be six feet under.

Their main problem is that, at first, no one comes. Twiddling their thumbs all day long makes the Katakuris fretful about their seemingly imminent failure. When guests do begin to drop in, they also quickly proceed to drop dead. Much to the familyís dismay, the first guest commits suicide and the second two die in a lustful romp.

So whatís a family to do? What any sane entrepreneur would do, of courseóbury the bodies and hide the evidence in the midst of a collective song and dance number. Ainít nothing getting in their way of happiness.

Despite the follies, the happiness of the Katakuris obviously does not depend on any of the family members being in a well-constructed, fluid film. Whereas in Dancer In The Dark (among the most successful musical hybrid films in recent years), in which the musical scenes are essential to understanding the complexities of the main character, in this film they seem purposeless. Most times the musical scenes come across as inappropriate and bland.

Initially, the film intriguingly morphs live-action characters into fantastical claymation personas, but interest wanes as the story progresses because the film fails to succeed at much else. Granted, some of the scenes are impeccably filmedólush colors contrasting with gruesome content are often reminiscent of Cindy Shermanís later photographic work of the same nature. But the eye-candy cannot compensate for the inherent silliness of the songs performed by the guests and family. The only thing thatís consistent throughout the movie is the jokes that repeatedly miss the mark, as if eliminating the punch-line by inserting an ill-performed dance number would ever warrant a genuine guffaw.

The Happiness Of The Katakuris is daring, yes. But good? No.

óSandra M. Ogle


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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