Monday, February 01, 2010

Soggy Noodles - A Review of The Ramen Girl

I wasted an afternoon on "The Ramen Girl", the 2008 movie starring the late Brittany Murphy in the lead, and Nishida Toshiyuki as her grumpy old mentor. Not really worth a full on review and analysis, but I thought I'd throw in my two cents as I'm sure our readers will probably be tempted to at least rent it, despite the goofy movie poster to the left.

First off, this is really nothing original, basically it is little more than a remake of "Lost in Translation" with a heavy dose of "Tampopo" thrown in for good measure. "Lost in Translation" was far, far better, and "Tampopo" was more entertaining.

Easy plot outline: American girl goes to Japan to be with her boyfriend, who is preoccupied with his career, and leaves to go on a business trip in the first scene (Ala Lost in Translation - and I almost wish Bill Murray had a cameo in this, if nothing else than as a nod to the movie's predecessor, not to mention Bill Murray is GREAT). Whiny crying and drama ensues until she finds her way into a Ramen shop run by old grumpy bastard Nishida Toshiyuki, and she decides she wants to dedicate her life to making ramen (Ala Tampopo). And, luckily for us, the viewer, he does not make it easy for her. Nishida Toshiyuki steals the show as the grumpy Ramen shop owner who takes on this "Stupid Gaijin Lunatic" as the Ramen sensei - "Sensei" not by choice, but mostly because he can't seem to drive the crazy blonde gaijin out of his shop, and his constant berating insults and belittling of the Ramen Girl is probably the only thing that saves this sinking ship. The fact that I can only recommend this movie because Nishida Toshiyuki is entertaining as a grumpy old bastard is kinda sad, but he's on his game, and quite frankly, hilarious. I'll even take it a step further to say that the Japanese cast carries this movie despite Brittany Murphy's dialed in half-assed acting. The contrast of the less-than-stellar performance by Brittany Murphy and Nishida Toshiyuki's completely believable and entertaining old bastard is pretty sharp (in fact, the entire Japanese cast is perfect, and in a way, this movie reminds me of the typical Japanese-produced movie with a token gaijin played by the neighborhood English teacher - great cast, bad gaijin actor).

All in all, Two stars out of Five if you can't understand Japanese, or Three stars out of Five if you can, because Nishida's exasperation at having to deal with a crazy gaijin girl who wants nothing more than to "MAKE RAAAAAAAMEN!!!" is comedy gold.