Film Commentary [4-19-00]
Game show desperation - - Happy Family Plan
Genre: Comedy
Grade = A
Japanese with English subtitles

Happy Family Plan is based on a Japanese game show where a family must complete a complicated task to win the prize. As the film opens, the father, a salaryman, is fired from his job for a flimsy excuse as part of the company's downsizing plan. At first he is too ashamed to admit it to his family, but eventually breaks the news to his wife over his cell phone. Kicked out of the corporate dormatory, the couple and their two kids are forced to move in with the wife's parent's apartment over their confectionary shop. Taking the initiative, the wife opens a lunch shop in the store and is soon doing more business than her parents. Unfortunately, a new lunch shop opens down the street.

As the family misfortunes mount, the father is constantly reminded of his failures. His wife and in-laws continually browbeat him. Even worse, his wife's old boyfriend moves in with the family and is happily accepted by all, especially the grandfather who confides that he wished his daughter had married him, "but she had to marry a salaryman." Desperate, he signs up the family for the Happy Family Plan a real game show described as a torture program. The prize is three million yen (about $32,000). The interview for the show is a disaster as the family bickers and argues among themselves eventually walking out. However, this is the type of interesting family the show wants and they are selected as contestants. Showing up at the family apartment, the host of the show gives father his project for the show to win the prize. He must learn to play Home Sweet Home on the piano for the show in the next seven days. Unfortunately, father has never played the piano before.

This is a hilariously entertaining film that is apparently of the type that that the average Japanese enjoy, but we will never see as they have no hope of ever coming over here. Instead we get Hollywood crap. It is only through film festivals such as this that Americans get to see quality films from other countries. The script is original with entertaining performances by the cast, especially by the father, grandfather and the obnoxious former workmate (also fired)who becomes obsessed by the show and his desire to be on it.

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