Starring: Haruka Ayase, Mao Daichi, Charlotte Kate Fox
Director: Masato Hijikata
Running Time: 116 mins
The Kodai Family is a Japanese film about a timid woman who finds herself in a relationship with a direct descendant of the British Royal Family, but must come to terms with the man’s regal background and the strict requirements of joining the family.
It’s basically What A Girl Wants but made by the Japanese, and it’s just as painfully cutesy. Of course, The Kodai Family has moments of good humour and heart, along with some entertaining central performances, however it’s a poorly balanced mix of light-hearted comedy and more quaint and cheesy romantic drama, making for more of an inconsistent and frustrating watch than should be the case.
For starters, however, let’s look at the brighter side of the movie, and the fact that, for lack of a better word, it’s a nice, fluffy watch from beginning to end. Whether it’s trying to make you laugh with its silly comedy, or going all out with its stupidly cheesy romance, you’ll be able to sit back and smile at all of the light fluffiness unfolding before you.
Above all, the performances are what make the fluffiness work. Haruka Ayase is a very likable lead, playing a stereotypically timid woman who is thrust into a grand and very uptight family, while all of her co-stars, playing the various royals, pull off the roles well throughout, combining enough of the rigid and stereotypically inhuman qualities of a royal family member with enough charisma to be at least moderately entertaining on screen.
In that, the characters are likable and entertaining enough for you to care about them, making some of the film’s more heartfelt moments a little more effective, and some of the comedic hijinks a little more enjoyable. Again, there’s nothing about the film that’s so impressive you’ll be laughing your socks off, but the fact remains that it’s sweet enough to keep you entertained throughout.
However, there enlies the larger problem of the film. Although its fluffiness makes it a light, easy-going watch, it doesn’t allow for anything particularly interesting. While you may smile and enjoy some of the cheesier moments, there are some elements of the story (most of all the incredibly abrupt and almost unexplained central romance) that will really make you cringe, all the while featuring in what can’t be described as cinema’s most riveting screenplay.
What’s more is that the film really struggles to find a balance between its distinct atmospheres. Its opening act is a full-blown comedy, with our constantly daydreaming female lead’s various bizarre illusions being played out on screen in full, dazzling colour. However, the middle act moves towards something a little less stupid (even though you’ll discover that the royal family members have mind-reading powers – which I can’t fathom having ever been certified to get into the final script), and then the final act is a simple, cheesy romantic drama.
As a result, there’s never a point in the film where I felt sufficiently entertained by either the comedy or the cheesier drama, rather being thrown about in an awkward no-man’s-land that is rather frustrating to watch throughout.
Yes, The Kodai Family is meant to be a light and silly romantic comedy, and it definitely succeeds at that from time to time, but in general, it’s a rather inconsistent and frustrating watch, featuring a poor balance of its main genres, as well as a less-than-riveting (and often completely ridiculous) screenplay, which is why I’m giving it a 6.7 overall.