Prolific Japanese B-movie auteur Takashi Miike has acquired enough of an American audience to justify the release of three of his films here over the past year and a half, with a few more on the way. Heís both a gore hound and a moralist, and several of his films are marked by a half-parodic, half-serious concern for family togetherness. At best, his speed leads to wild energy and oddball ideas (as if he were channeling Sam Fuller); at worst, it makes his work terribly uneven.
The Happiness of the Katakuris suffers from dead time, but itís also a delight. The Katakuri family operate a hotel in backwater Japan. They have a problem: all their guests keep turning up dead, even though the family arenít killing them. The plot, however, is mostly an excuse for musical numbers and claymation special effects. The high points are a karaoke debut between Mr. and Mrs. Katakuri and an animated volcano eruption. Deliberately clunky choreography and cheesy music make this film all the more entertaining. Miikeís pace may prevent him from becoming a great director, but he has more imagination than a dozen hacks. Like his Audition, The Happiness of the Katakuris is a cult classic in the making. In Japanese with English subtitles. (113 minutes)