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
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
óSandra M. Ogle