An inventive bizarre musical from Takashi Miike that despite its off kilter song soundtrack and committed performances eventually runs out of steam. One can't fault the cast or visual panache but this remake/remodel of 'The Quiet Family' just isn't consistent throughout.
THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, a remake of the very fine Korean film THE QUIET FAMILY, finds Miike making the kind of inventive, flagrantly bizarre comedy only the Japanese seem capable of executing in such a guileless and matter-of-fact manner. I usually don't have time for movies w/ a message, but this is a message movie I can get behind. Don't be a drag, it says. Life ought to be a joy, misfortune its spice.
I legitimately loved the singing and dancing but I can't help but feel Miike works better with constraints; by attempting to reference and skew so many genres the film is left aimless and exhausted. The breadcrumbs of explanations frustrate matters, and it doesn't help the same person made a family comedy as good as Visitor Q. Then again, how many films boast this much comedic/visual/genre excellence... 2.5
I'll give "The Happiness of the Katakuris" credit when credit is due. Above all else this film is definitely unique... I can't think of another film like it! This might be the best Japanese horror, comedy musical of all time? If only because I don't think there are any other Japanese horror, comedy musicals in existence... I totally get the appeal of this movie, but personally I just didn't connect to it.
The first chapter, which I like to call "Errybody Eatin' Errybody" gets a weirdness score of 7 on the Švankmajer Scale. Beyond that it's just fun, silly and, in the end, really just a flick about family sticking together no matter what. Kinda hard to hate it, really. Plus, the fact that it came out the same year as Ichi makes it like 1000x better.
Takashi Miike never ceases to change everything we know about storytelling. An refreshing break from his typical uber-violent crime dramas (and very likely overshadowed by the instant-classic Ichie the Killer), The Happiness of the Katakuris is a beautiful piece on family and the power of love in the most trying of times. Each chapter of this film blew my expectations over like a thin stack of papers.
If watched when it came out, it would have possibly left a stronger impression, but as satire is wont to do, its age shows. Of course, that is part of its joke as it parodies one genre after another with cheesy video effects and ridiculous musical numbers better fit for the late 80s, but as beloved as this film seems to be, it falls short--as if Miike were distracted by the seven other films he directed that year.
It is easy to focus only on the outrageously unique style (bizarroland horror-comedy! with stop-motion!). But the characters and narrative is really something out of an Ozu wholesale catalog, all of them brilliantly conceived. It only helps that they happen to sing and dance and bury dead people.
Miike the man. Delightfully strange and utterly bizarre (just like Japanese television is to me). Tongue-in-cheek musical numbers mixed with puppetry, claymation, horror, detective drama, slapstick comedy and a variety of other genres. Like a big old genre soup of wonderful fun!!! I laughed my butt off and marveled at the craft of Miike. There's a KARAOKE number in this movie too!!! CRAZY and cool!!! Must see!