Starring: Toshiaki Karasawa, Kyôka Suzuki, Masahiko Nishimura
Director: Kôki Mitani
Running Time: 103 mins
Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald is a Japanese film about a radio play based on a housewife’s personal experiences that takes a turn for the worse when the producers decide to change some major story details just before it goes live, and then again and again as the play unfolds.
This film is so much fun. Taking a very simple concept in a very simple setting and turning it into an exciting, hilarious and clever scenario is absolutely ingenious throughout, and with a whole host of hugely energetic performances, this is a fantastically entertaining farce that’ll have you smiling, laughing and even on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
If there’s one thing that really works well in this film, it’s the setting. The entire movie plays out inside the radio studio, centring on the chaos that ensues after the radio execs decide to completely change the daily memories of a Japanese housewife to a melodramatic romance set in Chicago, complete with tsunamis, aliens and more.
What’s brilliant about the setting is that you get the same effect as if you were listening to this play on the radio. So, it’s the actors that do all of the work in creating the story-within-a-story, but with all of those fantastic performances, it’s very easy to get just as invested in the ridiculous plot that plays out on the radio, even though you have to imagine it all inside your head.
On top of that, the farcical madness that plays out on the other side of the recording studio, following the various radio producers, writers and directors as they desperately scramble around after having made yet another utterly preposterous story change, is absolutely brilliant. That side of the story never gets muddled up with the radio play, but the interaction between the characters involved in both stories is absolutely hilarious, and as seemingly moronic as every decision they make is, it’s simply so much fun to watch.
Another plus here comes from the directing. On the one hand, Kôki Mitani does a stunning job at making the story-within-a-story so vivid in your head throughout the movie, even if it’s not the main focus, and what’s even better is that he manages to balance the comedy in that story with the constantly ensuing chaos on the other side of the soundproof glass.
The film is amazingly fast-paced from start to finish, and given that it all plays out in one very small setting, and the fact that there are at least ten major characters, Mitani deserves huge credit for tying it all together and making such a brilliantly entertaining film that’s just as engaging to watch as well.
Finally, the performances. In line with everything else in the film, they’re all fantastically over-the-top. The comedy that comes from those insanely energetic performances is absolutely perfect, and given that there’s such a wide variety of personalities on show, all clashing in the most hilarious way while still trying to carry out a live radio play, there are boundless opportunities for crazy comedy, pretty much all of which are taken brilliantly.
Overall, I loved Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald. It’s a silly, farcical but absolutely hilarious comedy from start to finish that’s brilliantly directed, fantastically acted, and full of imagination and intelligence to tie together a properly entertaining and even exciting hour and a half of pure chaos, which is why I’m giving it a 7.9.