That’s the best way to describe Takashi Miike’s Happiness of the Katakuris.
On paper, the whole thing is normal enough. It’s a story of a family who picks up everything and starts an inn on a mountainside. The family members aren’t exactly a cast of colorful characters; they’re what one would expect in a family: somewhat offbeat, but loveable – or at least worthy of care. Miike takes characters and teases their flaws past reality and into the cartoonish… or at least into claymation.
Narrated by the youngest member of the family, Happiness of the Katakuris is an over-the-top examination of family life during trying times. The Katakuris’ inn has no customers and they’re beginning to feel desperate. Though nowhere near impoverished, they need someone to show up; the family is beginning to doubt the wisdom of the father who led them out of the city and into the wilds of the bed and breakfast industry.
Just as the family is beginning to embrace doubt and despair, guests show up. The only problem is that they tend to only stay one night. It’s not that the guests are so transient as to avoid the beauty of the local countryside; it’s just that they tend to die. Unfortunately for the Katakuris, dead guests do not a good business model make, nor do they give future references. The Katakuris face this dire financial and potentially criminal situation with aplomb and do what any tightly knit family would do: they band together and break into song.
Happiness of the Katakuris is part musical, part comedy, and completely unlike anything Takashi Miike has done before or since. Miike is most well known for his willingness to shock by putting taboos on graphic and often blood-drenched display. But Happiness of the Katakuris is very, very different. Sure, there are zombies, action scenes, bloodshed, paranoia, cops, criminals, et cetera… but it’s all restrained and made impotent, futile, darkly funny, and completely and utterly ridiculous.