MESSED UP AND MUSICAL: The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)

Becca hates this movie. When I asked her for her review, the words stupid, boring and dumb were used. I asked why and she replied, “It’s just horrible.” Me? I loved it. As Paula Abdul sang, “Opposites attract.” Also, much like that song, I hate cigarettes and Becca likes to smoke!

All four generations of Katakuris live on a house built over a garbage dump near Mt. Fuji. It’s not much to write home about, but they dream of calling it the White Lover’s Inn, a bed and breakfast that will serve the visitors that the road that runs nearby is sure to bring.

Finally, after much waiting, a TV personality shows up and the family is overjoyed. Yet he soon kills himself and they find his naked body. So they do what any family would do: they bury it and move on. A second guest, a sumo wrestler, dies having sex with his underage girlfriend.

In fact, every guest they get dies, whether by accident or murder or suicide. And the backyard is filling up!

Oh yeah — there’s also a con man in love with the youngest daughter, the police investigating all these murders and an active volcano.

Takeshi Miike (Dead or AliveBlade of the ImmortalVisitor Q) has directed everything from light-hearted children’s films to movies so controversial governments have stepped in to block them. Here, he creates a musical that combines Japanese pop, karaoke and traditional musicals to make one of the most legitimately bonkers films I’ve ever watched. The film can quickly turn into flashbacks or claymation at a moment’s notice, sometimes multiple times within the same scene.

The leader of the Katakuris, Masao, is played by Kenji Sawada, who was a crossover pop star at the end of the 1960’s. He was nicknamed Julie for his love of Julie Andrews. He’s one of only two Japanese artists to ever appear on the cover of Rolling Stone and even had Barry Gibb write songs for him!

Shizue’s boyfriend, the sailor who claims to be a British relative of Queen Elizabeth, is played by Kiyoshiro Imawano, who was known as Japan’s king of rock, even recording with Booker T & the M.G.’s. His funeral, dubbed The Aoyama Rock n’ Roll Show, drew 42,000 mourners.

The father, Jinpei, is Tetsurō Tamba, who was Tiger Tanaka in You Only Live Twice. And Naoto Takenaka, who plays a reporter, is the Japanese voice of Batman and Nick Fury.

This is a movie that demands to be experienced. From animated fairies ending up in people’s soup to heroic dogs that surf through lava, this is a demented version of The Sound of Music. Check out the trailer and see if it strikes your fancy, then you can watch this on Shudder. If you hate it, you can share your feelings with Becca.

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