The Happiness of the Katakuris

07/20/2023 10:00

Film: The Happiness of the Katakuris (Katakuri-ke no kôfuku)

Year: 2001

Director: Takashi Miike

Writers: Ai Kennedy and Kikumi Yamgishi

Starring: Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka and Shinji Takeda



This is a movie that I don’t think I heard of until the Summer Challenge series for the 2000s over on the Podcast Under the Stairs. It was an honorable mention that didn’t make the show, so I was curious. When I heard that it was directed by Takashi Miike, I knew that it would be wild regardless. The theater I’m a member at, The Gateway Film Center, showed this as part of their Mammoth Monday series, so I caught it there.

Synopsis: a family moving to the country to run a rustic mountain inn when, to their horror, the customer begin befalling sudden and unlikely fates.

We start this off at a fancy restaurant. A group of odd women come in and they pass a table where the young lady ordered soup. She keeps putting her spoon into it and then her fork until it reveals a tiny creature. The young lady changes into clay as this monster goes into her mouth, removing her uvula. It then flies off with it. We then get odd things where a bird attacks the creature, it is then attacked by a doll that takes the eye of the little creature. All this leads to a remote hotel.

This is the place the synopsis is referring to. It is run by the Katakuri family. The father is Masao (Kenji Sawada). He was a popular shoe salesperson who lost his job. He decided to buy this place and work on it with his family. His wife, Terue (Keiko Matsuzaka) who was quite popular actor, but has settled into working around the house. There is their daughter, Shizue (Naomi Nishida). She was left by her husband while pregnant and had to come home. The son was a rich investment banker until he was busted for crimes. His name is Masayuki (Shinji Takeda). There is also the grandfather, Jinpei Katakuri (Tetsurô Tanba) as well as Shizue’s daughter Yurie (Tamaki Miyazaki).

The reason they bought this place was that they were told a major road was being built that would go right by it. That still hasn’t happened. They’ve opened but had no guests coming. That is until one night during a terrible storm. This man has planned an act that will change the lives of the Katakuris. They must make a horrible decision that will either get them bad press, potentially destroying their business. On the other hand, it is against the law, but could help protect their name. Masao must think of his family over anyone else and strive to make them happy. It isn’t easy with the others that come to their remote hotel.

That is where I’m going to leave my recap as well as giving you an idea of what we’re dealing with. You also don’t have any idea of what you are getting with this movie as it is wild. Now I did know that Matt from Eternal Darkness of the Not So Spotless Mind podcast hated this movie. I believe his co-host of Kate enjoys this. I also think my friend of Jamie likes it too. What I will say is that it is light on the horror as this is more of an odd, comedy with splashes of musical. That is not to say there isn’t horror here, but that isn’t the in the forefront.

To get into my breakdown, I think this movie has a good message. It is done in a dark way. We have Masao who loves his family. He wants to take care of them and he takes a chance on building this hotel. It is a gamble. He needs this major road to go in for it to work. What I find interesting is that this feels like it is borrowing the concept from Psycho. For that one though, it is the opposite. That place was successful, but when the highway moved, they took the hit. As I was leading off here, this father loves his family. He is taking on such a burden for this place to succeed. I feel bad for him as he is not eating and working around the clock. I can respect him. That is why I can see the choices he makes.

I’m not going to go into spoilers, but I’ll reveal that the first guy kills himself in the room. This is the first act break. They decide to hide the body. From there we have other people that die in their hotel which makes Masao question why. They also get criminals like Richâdo Sagawa (Kiyoshirô Imawano). He is playing with the lovestruck Shizue, trying to get money of her. These are the type of things they’re dealing with. There is also a potential volcano in the nearby mountain to make things worse.

What I will say though is that what this movie lacks in a more coherent story, it makes up with the visuals. This movie is shot beautifully. We get vivid colors and just odd things that we see. Part of this comes about when they go into musical numbers. None of them are great, but with what they’re singing about, it did make me laugh. I would give credit to the cinematography and the selections for fitting the tone of the movie. They also help to build it as well.

I should also go over the effects. It adds comedy that they’ll switch characters over to a clay version. I’m assuming this was done as they couldn’t do the effect they wanted with a person or CGI. It stands out when they do this, but I’ll be honest, since the movie is a comedy and absurd, it fits. They do creepy things with them. They’re not great. I do want to set up that. They work for me though.

Another thing I keep bringing up is the tone. I’m not the biggest fan of it. This movie is a comedy where a lot of the jokes didn’t necessarily land. That’s not to say none of them did. There was a decent crowd in the theater and there were times that I laughed. I wasn’t alone there. I do think there is a bit of an issue here culturally why this doesn’t work as well as it could. I still enjoyed my time with how crazy this movie goes.

Then the last thing I want to delve into would be the acting. I thought that Sawada was good as our father. I believe what he is doing and can feel the tension that he feels. Nishida is solid as our love-struck daughter. She wants it so badly that it makes her gullible and susceptible to someone like Richâdo. Matsuzaka is good as the mother. I like how hot-headed Takeda is, which fits the role. My second favorite character though would have to be Tanba as the grandfather. He’s great. Other than that, I’d say the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed. The wild story that Imawano tells deserves a shout-out as well.

In conclusion, I’m not entirely sure what to make of this movie. I liked it. I thought it was fun and a wild one. I think that the acting isn’t great, but it fits for what the movie needed. We get some great visuals that don’t always make sense. The music in the movie isn’t necessarily my thing. It does fit for what they needed though for sure. My biggest take away is that there is a good message here. The ending drives that home as well. I’m not sure this is one that I’ll come back to regularly, but I enjoyed this viewing.


My Rating: 7 out of 10