I will admit, upon hearing the
US title for the film I became very skeptical
for this late 1990's comedy effort from Toho.
Japanese cinema isn't exactly known for its
comedies, and the stereotype in this "field"
seems to be to laugh at the film rather then
with them (case in point, Key of Keys,
aka What's Up, Tiger Lily?). However,
Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald will lay
to waste any skeptics that there can't be
a great Japanese comedy, as this primarily
character driven film will likely leave many
satisfied, the acting is top notch, and the
more quirky nature of the film is a nice touch,
with the only real blemish on the film being
Hattori's slightly mediocre score.
The film's greatest achievement
would probably be its rather simplistic story:
housewife (Kyoka Suzuki as Miyako Suzuki)
wins a radio drama contest which places her
script up for reenactment on a live broadcasting,
but troubles arise as changes are made to
it to appease all involved parties, that slowly
unfold as the film continues.
The plot is simple, yet ties
in sideplots, such as the security guard who
is an ex sound effect man, in a natural way
that breathes life into a straight forward
premise. The movie ends up being very character
driven as well, relying on the audiences reactions
to them more than the story. Thankfully, character
development is also strong as each is member
of a rather large cast is unique and different.
Their motives are never in question as they
all struggle through the increasingly disastrous
The acting in Welcome Back,
Mr. McDonald is generally very strong. Masahiko
Nishimura, as Producer Ushijima, tends to stand
out the most as he shows a large variety of emotions
with his character, as the stress of his job continues
to increase; consequently, Nishimura was given
a best supporting actor award from the Kinema
Jumpo Nippon Movie Awards for his role in the
film. Overall, though, its great performances
all across the board, as everyone really gets
into their role and allows their character's personalities
to really shine through.
So the film is good... but is it
funny? Like any comedy, a lot of the charm is
lost once you know most of the jokes, but thankfully
Welcome Back Mr. McDonald has its generally
interesting story and performances to rely on
to keep one's attention with repeated viewings.
The film relies more on the overall mood of the
film to get a laugh out of the audience, as opposed
to slap stick comedy or one liners, which works
well in making the film an enjoyable watch time
and time again. It gets a little cheesy, at parts,
but it just fits the mood of the over the top
radio show that they are doing.
If there was a weak point to the
movie, it would have to be the movie's soundtrack.
Now, to Takayuki
Hattori's credit, the score he created for
the movie is far from bad, as I will attest to
after having listened to the soundtrack CD. However,
it just doesn't leave a lasting impression in
the film itself. His themes here are often downplayed,
hardly even noticeable in the background. Those
that do come to the forefront, while sometimes
working to amp up the comedic value with their
serious approach to an otherwise off the wall
moment, don't make much of an impression. The
exception, though, is the excellent credit theme,
which features the vocal work of Akira Fuse, the
actor who plays the Horinouchi the Executive Producer.
The track sounds rather dated, but is never the
less refreshing and overall it fits the feeling
of the ending perfectly.
Overall the film is an excellent
comedy that avoids the rather cliché slap
stick, and it saves the more physical humor for
a montage that plays while the ending credits
are rolling. The film really goes for more original
laughs, that will actually have the viewer wondering
what the "punch line" will be before
it's actually given. With all honesty, one of
Toho's best films of the 1990's.