Are you a fan of zombies? A family that sticks together in times of hardship? Running a family business no matter what the cost is and a guy who is clearly catfishing a family member?
Still here? Cool, this is my review of Happiness of the Katakuris. Probably the funniest film I’ve seen, but I’m a fan of dark humour so I was laughing at more bits than usual.
It starts off with a young lady in a restaurant who has ordered soup, but something is at the bottom of the soup. She uses a fork to investigate and finds a naked doll with large eyes and angel wings. She panics and screams, I mean who wouldn’t if they found a creature in their food! From this moment on, it turns into claymation. Yep, this claymation angel climbs into her mouth and rips out her uvula because it’s shaped like a heart. This heart shaped uvula flies out with the creature chasing it. It stops in a barn where the angel creature is caught by a crow and eaten. I don’t know if it was Tim Burton inspired, but it feels much darker. The crow is eaten by a teddy bear with a zipper mouth and wolverine claws, the X-Men variety, not the actual animal variety. It gets surreal from there, but seeing is believing. Odd and bizarre, but that’s why I love it so much.
Carrying on with the introduction of the Katakuri family. We meet the great grandad of the family who is working in a field while his great granddaughter, Yurie, is burying her dead goldfish. The great grandad of the family knocks a crow out of the sky as he tells his dog, Poochi to go get the dead crow. A voice-over begins, the female voice discusses the family as a whole, but also emphasizes their individual personalities. These include the dreams and problems that we face as family as well as the influence of nature and nuture.
The Katakuri family also includes the grandpa, who was a retired retail worker, and the adult brother and sister who are bickering around the garden. The grandpa bought a house during his retirement and runs it as a rentable guesthouse because a road is being built soon. Of course where will tourists end up resting? The guesthouse. The grandma is introduced as Grandma Terue and she has the energy of Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia. The adult sister is named Shizue, her backstory is about her falling in and out of love rather quickly. The adult brother is named Masayuki, he worked in a stock company, but the backstory looks more like a chase scene. Shizue is more optimistic about life while her brother Masayuki is more pessimistic, they often clash and their personalities frequently flip between happy and sad.
A group of female spiritual hikers, who all happen to be singing, approach the guesthouse as an eclipse takes place. The women see this as an omen and start to freak out. Later on, the family are gathered at the dining table, enjoying their dinner. They’re watching tv and things just gets weirder. Suddenly, Poochi is barking because a guest is at the door who wants to rent a room for the night. He sings to himself in his room about being lonely and he’s carving something.
The next day, Shizue and Yurie decide to go out into town. Masayuki prepares a breakfast for their first guest, but the food starts to get cold so they go to check on their guest. They finally open the door to his room and suddenly begin singing and dancing. This is their natural reaction to seeing a dead body; I mean why have a sad reaction to death? Let’s dance and sing our emotions to the dead body lying on the floor as well as sing about the theory we have about why he did that. Bonkers but I love it! They decide to bury the body themselves because if the police are involved, no one would want to come to the guesthouse. Yep, they sing and dance as they’re burying the body. The flow of the song is smooth as they are unhappy about what they are doing. Music always sets the tone.
Shizue is at a fancy looking cafe and she starts to sing a little about being single and around other couples. She is hoping to find the man of her dreams. A naval officer walks past as her daughter is eating a strawberry sundae at a table. She joins her daughter and the naval officer sits close-by. He throws a paper aeroplane that lands in front of her. She unravels it to see a drawing of a woman reading a book with the words “I love you” and a bug. Cue naval officer singing and dancing to show how much he loves Shizue. The song is funny, but entertaining. It ends with Shizue singing and cooing on the floor while he stands above her, trying to get her to stand up. He claims to be a part of the British Royal Navy and tries a lot of lines to impress her and find out if she’s single or not. It feels awkward. He’s also a British secret agent, so impressive. He walks away and turns to tell her his name, Richard Sagawa. As he leaves Shizue is deeply impressed by him.
The next day, a couple walks into the guesthouse, a sumo wrestler and a girl in her 20’s. Later in the evening, Masayuki is outside on a ladder, watching and laughing at the couple having sex. Shizue gets a call from Richard Sagawa who is using sound effects to tell Shizue that he’s on a mission. As the movie goes on, the bodies start piling up and a police officer comes knocking. The family does their best to act like everything’s normal and fine. Shizue is about to break, but her upbeat grandma tries to make an excuse for the way she is acting in front of the officer.
Another family turns up as they are treated with food and drink. Things are starting to look up, but Masayuki is moping around the next day. The Katakuris start to sing and dance to lift Masayuki’s spirits and he eventually joins in with his family to sing and dance about being happy. After this Richard turns up, but he’s been drinking water from the nearby lake, which has previously killed anyone and anything that drank from it. He says something in confusion to Shizue that is just hilarious to watch.
Later on the grandparents are talking about leaving, but decide to start singing but with subtitles, encouraging anyone watching this film to join in. I am not fluent in Japanese so I didn’t sing along, though it was pretty funny. Sing along in English if you want, that would be just as hilarious. They realize that they have to dig up the dead bodies and rebury them someplace else. Richard and Shizue have a date where he continues to lie about his life. To sweeten the deal, they sing a piano driven song to impress each other. The great grandad interrupts as Richard fights with him. Shizue tries to break it up and she delivers a flying kick at Richard. Grandad and Richard tumble into claymation again. There is an edge of a cliff claymation sequence which is thrilling. Shizue ends up helping the family as Richard falls like that baddie from Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.
Yurie is poking around after noticing the dead bodies have moved and now are reanimated. The family sings along with the zombies, which is nicely choreographed. They see a random guy break into the guesthouse as the cops show up. At this moment. I can’t think of a better way to for the family to show an emotional reaction to cops heading towards them other than sing and dance. Although this plan wouldn’t work in real life or if you were in that Footloose town.
A showdown without music happens that is full of love and concern for the person held hostage. It becomes sad and very real at this point. After the showdown, the volcano in the distance erupts and everything goes into claymation. They’re all trying to help the dog Poochi, who’s in trouble. Thankfully the dog is saved. The family then all holds hands in claymation, even the dog puts his claymation paws up. They are all holding onto the claymation house to try and save it from the landslide that’s happening. They wake up in human form, no longer Claymation, in an open field that resembles the Swiss Alps. What would you do in an open field after surviving a volcanic eruption? Yep, that’s right, there’s more happy music about life, laughter and happiness. That’s life!
Want to discuss it further? You can find me on Twitter with the handle @ImmieBroods after you’ve seen Happiness of the Katakuris. I’d love to hear what you thought of it.