Instead of being offended, “Honest” Goro, a lousy businessman who inherited the store from his parents, hires Hanako on the spot, relying on her in-store skills to turn the shop around.
Additional pressure comes from Bargains Galore, a mega-mart that opens right across the street. In shades of “Big Night,” the chain store’s smarmy owner makes nice with Goro, then does what he can to wipe him out. Meanwhile, the latter’s own family is undercutting his efforts, and the old-time male staff — “the pros,” as they’re known — are stealing meat and repackaging old goods, much to the dismay of the largely female part-time sales staff. By now the beleaguered boss, who’s a widower, is not only hooked on Hanako’s concept of top quality at low prices, but he’s smitten with Hanako herself, even if she blows off his mild advances as if they’re still in sixth grade.
Miyamoto wonderfully carries off the role’s tricky combination of childish playfulness and inarguable authority. Tsugawa, a stony Buster Keaton type who eventually cracks a smile, is just as good. Itami is an expert gauger of star chemistry, playing different temperaments against each other for just the right effect, as highlighted to hilarious effect in a seg when the middle-aged couple give it a hesitant go in a rented room.
Physical humor also scores, with a nighttime chase through the darkened store and even a manic food fight coming across as fresh. Lensing is clever, with an emphasis on bright, artificial-looking colors, and with smooth, tone-shifting edits goosing the action at every turn. Toshiyuki Honda’s lush score jumps from brassily retro lounge music to more introspective cello strains without inhibition (although Itami doesn’t lean on the music to keep pic’s energy up).
Within the farcical framework, helmer comments on declining standards in an increasingly mechanized society, and pic also scores subtle points by criticizing Japanese tendency toward go-along-to-get-along corruption.