To fans of horror and action films, Takashi Miike is a beloved director—having helmed such films as Ichi the Killer and Audition. While I know that these films are adored by fans, I frankly hated them because they were just too graphic and nasty for my tastes. Call me a wimp—I just didn’t like these sorts of movies. Yet, oddly, the same man who brought us these rather hard core films also has made some amazingly fun and family-friendly films, such as Zebraman and Ace Attorney (based on the wildly popular and strange Phoenix Wright games for the Nintendo DS). He’s sort of a Jekyll and Hyde director—a guy who has gone to various extremes and is difficult to pin down in style.
My favorite Miike film is actually my favorite Japanese film—and I ‘ve seen a lot of them. Now I am not saying it’s the best film—just my favorite. It’s the one that I enjoy the most and love to recommend to friends. This film will not be confused with the great works of Kurosawa or the wonderful Samurai Trilogy!! The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) is an insanely funny and strange family film—and one Miike and the cast must have had a ball making. It’s a bizarre comedy about a very nice family who is trying to make a go of it with the new hotel they built in the middle of nowhere. They heard rumors that a highway was going to be built near their hotel, but so far there is no sign of the highway or customers. Unfortunately when folks do actually make it to the hotel , they end up dying in very funny accidental ways—and the nice family’s reactions to these deaths are hilarious. Add to this a great song and dance number with zombies (the mother’s reaction to this alone makes the film worth seeing), a claymation introduction and a clearly Japanese guy who claims to be Queen Elizabeth’s love child and you have the ingredients for a strange and very funny film.
To put this into some perspective, while I am a nut about movies and will watch just about anything, my family isn’t! Yet, when they watched this film with me, they laughed and laughed just as much as I did. And now, you can enjoy it to thanks to Netflix. However, after watching it you might just want to pick up a copy of your own. Enjoy and let me know what you think of this bizarre little film.
Review by Lead Entertainment Writer and Film Critic, Martin Hafer