THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS

5 Stars
Year Released: 2001
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 113 minutes
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This one gets a perfect score despite the rash of musical numbers. It’s astounding! Takashi Miike can do absolutely anything!
After an eye popping opening claymation sequence, similar to the works of Jan Svankmajer, we focus on the Katakuri family who decide to head for the mountains where they can open a quaint guesthouse in the middle of nowhere. The reason for this remote location is that there’s to be a major road built through the area that will run directly in front of the house, bringing the family a wealth of business. But until that road is built, the Katakuris have to settle for the occasional passers-through as their first lodgers, all of who manage to die during their stay. Not wanting word to get out that the Katakuris’ guesthouse is a death trap, the family work together to dispose of the bodies in a nearby lake. Oh yeah, and they find plenty of time to sing and dance too.
I swear, you’d think the Katakuris were Fraggles. Any kind of situation is prime reason for these people to burst out into a full-blown musical number, complete with costume changes and backup dancers. They even rope some rotting dead bodies into one of the acts. Yes, there are quite a few musical numbers here, but as horrifying as that may sound, they’re just so ridiculous and out of place that they’re thoroughly entertaining. Many of them even are actually quite brilliantly staged. One of the numbers takes the form of a cheesy karaoke video with the lyrics to the song appearing at the bottom of the screen. Yes, this is all from the same director who made one of the most hideous torture scenes in film history within the last ten minutes of “Audition.”
This is the most outrageous change of pace I’ve seen from Takashi yet. Gone are the buckets of gore, replaced by wacky Peter Sellers type humor and poppy musical accompaniment. Not that he hasn’t left his signature of death and mayhem. Plenty of dead bodies pop up before film’s end, as well as a fine collection of strange characters.
Speaking of strange characters, the Katakuri family is an absolute blast to watch. There’s mom and dad Katakuri (it was all dad’s idea to open the guesthouse after he lost his promising career as a shoe salesman), their rebellious son in his late teens (takes to peeping through windows), their daughter in her early twenties (divorced and constantly on the look out for Mr. Right), her little daughter (one of the most adorable kids you’ll ever lay eyes on) and even dotty old grandpa (hey, he’s a crazy old fart, what can I say). This group of characters may seem to make an odd fit at first, but once the musical numbers kicks in, you’ll see the true family quality in these folks.
Not only is “The Happiness of the Katakuris” completely outrageous, it’s rather touching too, in a twisted way, sure, but touching all the same. It’s doing the festival circuit right now, so do yourself a favor and get happy with the Katakuris!



Posted on October 13, 2002 in Reviews by
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