If The Happiness of the Katakuris opens with a bizarre claymation sequence that makes you wonder if you accidentally stumbled into a screening of Eat Carpet shorts or early Peter Jackson films, don’t worry. You are definitely in the right place, and soon to be in the right frame of mind, for Miike Takashi’s hilariously twisted family values romp through traditional Julie Andrews territory. Don’t try to understand, just use it for preparation time because believe me you are going to need it. It’s highly doubtful you have ever seen a film like this before, and possible you never will again.
The Katakuris family have, each for slightly different reasons, bought into an isolated guesthouse in the mountains under the impression that new road construction will soon bring customers, success and ultimately happiness into their lives. Unfortunately, business is slow. Okay, understatement. It’s dead. Or at least their first guest is, after having suicided in a particularly nasty manner which happens to look not only deeply suspicious but is going to be really, really bad for business. A forced consensus finds the deceased guest in an unmarked grave out by the lake and the family back to business (or rather lack thereof) as usual. That is until guest numbers two and three (a sumo star and his rather petite girlfriend), the slightly too friendly local law enforcement and the divorced daughter’s potential (and potentially dodgy) boyfriend start turning up (in various states of alive) as well.
Funny? Just imagine all this going on to the accompaniment of an all-singing, all-dancing soundtrack, complete with karaoke, interpretative ballet, and an astonishing range of musical styles the likes of even Andrew Lloyd couldn’t accomplish. Then add a nicely genre-based treatment (Takashi showing us he knows how to make a horror movie, if he really wanted to) and therein happiness lies. Takashi has cross-bred two seemingly incompatible film genres and given life to something delightfully mad and crazily entertaining, so out there in fact that it’s definitely going to be a love-it-or-hate-it event for most film-goers.
Personally, I haven’t laughed so hard in ages and by the audience response (a healthy turnout for such a late night session) and the spontaneous, enthusiastic applause on roll-credits I think I wasn’t the only one.