Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Like Father, Like Son

Director Hirokazu Koreeda, who bored us with "After Life" (1998) and "I Wish" (2012), returns with "Like Father, Like Son," which is if nothing else at least twice as good as the 1987 Dudley Moore-Kirk Cameron comedy of the same name.

This one concerns Ryota, a successful Tokyo architect (Masaharu Fukuyama), and his wife Midori (Machiko Ono), who find out when their son Keita is six that he's not their son at all; he was switched at birth with another boy, who's grown up with a shopkeeper couple as Ryusei. The families meet and pursue both litigation against the hospital and the slow process of possibly "switching back." 

Koreeda takes a sledgehammer approach to this material, overplaying Ryota's snobbery toward his middle-class counterparts and bringing this workaholic and Tiger Dad (he crams the piano down Keita's throat despite his lacking any apparent talent) in for his predictable and almost cruel comeuppance. The kids are adorable - especially Ryusei's younger brother - as Japanese kids usually are, and there are some pretty shots set to soothing and tranquil music. But the movie drags a lot and, in the end, what can you say about this exceedingly rare situation except that it's sad for everyone?

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