A three-armed man embarks on a road trip to Bangkok for surgical amputation in the audacious Thai comedy-romancer, “Handle Me With Care.” Seasoned screenwriter Kongdej Jaturanrasamee (“Tom-Yum-Goong,” “The Letter”) follows his well-traveled directorial effort, “Midnight My Love,” with a film that unerringly tickles the funny bone for its first hour but goes soft in the second. Pic opened to respectable local biz but will have trouble getting a grip elsewhere, apart from Asian-themed gigs. Mix of laughs and melodrama makes this too awkward a fit for Western fests.
Being born with three arms is both a boon and a burden for Kwan Traithep (Kiatkamol Latha). Repeatedly employee of the month at the rural post office where he works as a mail sorter, Kwan can also carry 50% more groceries than anyone else in his Lampang province village. But when Kwan’s specialist tailor dies, and his g.f. calls it quits from not knowing which hand to hold, the taunts of his fellow villagers start to get him down.
After seeing a surgeon on a reality TV program, Kwan journeys to Bangkok. En route, he meets troubled young Na (Supaksorn Chaimongkol), who feels freakish because of her buxom chest.
Jokes in the opening reels won’t win any PC awards but are inventive and unashamedly funny. At the halfway mark, pic ditches the gags almost completely and settles in as a romantic meller whose central theme is self-acceptance.
Direction by Jaturanrasamee is fine but his script, like many comedies with a sentimental streak, gets lost in mawkishness. Unlike the gently toned “Midnight My Love” (with its fine perf by Thai comedian Petchtai Wongkamlao), the idiosyncratic “Handle” becomes too slow and self-pitying to catch on with international auds. Performances are amusingly deadpan.
Kwan’s third arm is convincingly depicted through sleight of, uh, hand, making use of another actor rather than special effects. Tech credits are up to usual Thai standards. Original title means “Hug.”