San Francisco filmmaker Jon Moritsugu turns the American sitcom family on its head with “Terminal USA,” a post-punk, psychedelic picnic brimming with wholesome depravity and playfully twisted stereotypes. Part of the Independent Television Service’s “TV Families” series, this rambunctious volley of flagrantly tasteless humor could whip up a minor cult following, especially in the U.K. and Europe.
Moritsugu plays up the incongruousness of Asian ethnicity wedged into a soap operatic, all-white TV entertainment mold, with a seriously problem-plagued Japanese-American family whose delivery is pure Dick and Jane. His contorted take on staple small-screen drama ingredients like drugs, sexuality and parenting angst never goes much beyond droll trivialization, but it offers a tongue-in-cheek alternative to “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
Ma (Sharon Omi) sits around in glamorous boudoir garb, staying sweet thanks to life-support drugs meant for bedridden Grandpa (Lenny Lang). Dad (Ken Narasaki) has a pent-up urge to annihilate the old man.
Begging parental concern are their pregnant, nymphomaniacal cheerleader daughter (Jenny Woo), and twin sons (both played by Moritsugu), Kazumi, a nihilistic junkie with a g.f. from another planet (Amy Davis), and Marvin, a computer nerd nursing a secret passion for men in uniform.
Perfs are appropriately large throughout, with standout input from Omi and Narasaki as perfect embodiments of unctuously righteous TV parents mutated by a splash of venal duplicity.
Jennifer Gentile’s inventive production design re-creates the suburban picket-fence home in a garish comic-strip realm that’s cleanly shot by Moritsugu’s fellow West Coast underground cinema exponent Todd Verow. While the antics are generally well-sustained, they could perhaps have benefited from being cut to a marginally tighter rhythm.