Friday, May 18, 2007



Don't watch Udon on an empty stomach, or you'll be tempted to gorge on those Japanese noodles right after the screening. Despite its simple presentation, watching bowls after bowls of noodles in your face, and the characters slurping them down with gusto, somehow leaves you with an imagined flavour in your mouth as they smack their lips, while you smack at nothing.

The film is as simple as a bowl of udon noodles, with prime ingredients being the fat noodles, the broth, a sprinkle of spring onions, and an egg. Of course there are the fancy combinations of added condiments and ingredients to spice things up, but unfortunately for the film, it became a story of two distinct halves, with little character development between each half, and contained a little too many subplots that were necessary, bringing the runtime to a whopping 2 hours 15 minutes.

I thought the more interesting of the lot was in the first half, where the movie takes a look on fads. Similarly to Bubble Tea or the Luohan Fish fads, what turned out to be essentially fairly good products, boomed in popularity because it managed to latch on the novelty factor, and yet suffered when its 15 minutes of fame was up. Scores of bubble tea stores collapse from the oversupply and people generally being sick of the drink, and the Luohan fish went back to the longkangs. Good intentions sometimes bring about uncontrollable negative costs.

But Udon as "soul food", and the highlight of a magazine column, sparked off the rage of the noodle in all of Japan, as everyone descends to the small town of Sanuki where there are plenty of Udon eateries around tucked in obscure corners. The movie follows two protagonists - Kosuke Matsui (Yusuke Santamaria), a failed comedian who tried his luck at New York stand up comedy clubs, and returns to his hometown where his father runs a mean udon shop, and Kyoko Miyagawa (Manami Konishi), a blur like sotong girl who has zero sense of direction. Kosuke, in wanting to clear his debts, and not in good terms with Dad, turns out to work as a salesman of a local magazine, and becomes colleagues with Kyoko, before the entire editorial crew jumped upon the opportunity of scouting and reviewing various Udon shops, positioning themselves in time for the craze.

My eyes were on the bowls of noodle, as well as the cute looking Manami Konishi, who had a bit part in Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Retribution, where she had pretty little to do. As the heroine in Udon, don't expect much too, but at least she plays the supportive friend, while being comic fodder in the first half. For those who prefer drama, the second half of Udon will be your cup of tea, as the movie shifts into lower gear to examine the love-hate ties between Kosuke and his dad, and would be chefs out there would want to pay attention here to pick up some secrets into preparing that perfect bowl of udon.

Coupled with a bit of comedy and a snazzy CGI-ed sequence played totally for its cheese, director Katsuyuki Motohiro and writer Masashi Todayama seemed to have piled on too much for Udon, unlike their earlier work on the Bayside Shakedown movies, which had a lot going, but managed to pull it off because it still boiled down to cops solving crime, in a rather daily operational look at the police force from different perspectives of those on the beat, and those on the ivory tower.

But similar to being spoilt for choice with udon being served and prepared in either hot in cold, hot in hot or just cold, Udon the movie couldn't decide what it wants to be - pseudo-documentary, comedy, family drama, romance, that while each serves its purpose, these ingredients don't manage to gel together to become a formidable dish. Watchable, but nothing too memorable. Oh, and stay tuned until after the end credits.

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