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Hal MacDermot [Film Festival 04.30.09] movie review comedy

Year: 2009
Directors: Judith Krant
Writers: Judith Krant & Dan Sumpter
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: cyberhal
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

[Newport Beach Film Festival coverage]

A naïve lad from small town East Texas travels to Shanghai, China to get his sure-fire novelty “Humorous Domestic Hygiene Product” made. His only weapons are sneezing powder and a winning smile. Judith Krant’s debut movie is an indie gem and I loved it. Skillfully shot in guerilla style, MADE IN CHINA took the Grand Jury Prize for feature at SXSW, and the crowd around me at the Newport Beach festival loved it too. Now, I hear you say, where is the Quiet Earth post-apocalyptic/horror element in all this? Is there a subtle and clever relation to the decimation of American manufacturing industry and a brave new world of global realignment? No, is there bollocks. But it is well-funny and you will catch glimpses of a rubber chicken and joke dog plop. There is also an unforgettable scene of Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech, all in Chinese.

The trusting and novelty-toy obsessed Johnson (Jackson Kuehn) has set himself up a business meeting over Craig’s list, and despite the fact that his mother clings to him and begs him not to depart, he takes all the money he has and jumps on a jet plane bound for China. Johnson soon learns that the trusting part of his character really isn’t his best asset in a city that only speaks the language of hard cash. Kuehn plays Johnson with a nice mix of innocence, hope and guts, it’s a great performance. BTW in true indie style, Johnson’s Mum is played by Kuehn’s real Mum, and almost all the crew feature in the cast.

The film spends a great deal of time entertaining us with the history of novelty toys and their now fabulously wealthy creators. Ant boxes, sneezing powder and the slinky: Oh America, land of our forefathers, how thou art great (well, I’m a Brit, but whatever I have a green card). Krant often uses Johnson’s idea-notebooks and montage to convey the narrated novelty-history information, and intercuts with Johnson’s own inventions, like glue-on “awake-eyes” to stick on your eyelids when you sleep. Visually, my favorite scenes were of Johnson discovering Shanghai, from the crowded backstreets of the old city, to the new neon wonderland of the skyscraper future. Musically, Matt Mariano incorporates the sound of toys into an eclectic and playful soundtrack, which also includes a track from the musical genius behind Monty Python, Neil Innes.

I am currently obsessed with all things Chinese. Not just because 87% of the world’s population and manufacturing is in fact Chinese, but because I recently went on holiday to Shanghai to visit a very wonderful and old friend of mine, who taught me and Heather to make an expresso-vodka martini. China is full of ancient wisdom like that. Hi Selinde! I am not sure if MADE IN CHINA added much to my very tiny lacquer box of enlightening jade wisdom, but it was definitely fun. I will finish on a random fact: in 1999, the director Judith Krant played Olan Chang in 22 episodes of the TV version of Total Recall. Oh right, there’s the Quiet Earth apocalyptic angle!

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Anonymous (10 years ago) Reply

This film is so clever and fun! I love the shots filmed in Shanghai and I love Johnson! The leading actor was great for this film!


Angie Norton (10 years ago) Reply

a must see -- it is guaranteed to cheer you up!


Anonymous (10 years ago) Reply

great film, awesome music!!!

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