Sartorial silliness is tailor-made for laughs in the Nipponese comedy "The Handsome Suit."

Sartorial silliness is tailor-made for laughs in the Nipponese comedy “The Handsome Suit.” A tandem vehicle for rotund TV comedian Muga Tsukaji and male-model-cum-thesp Shosuke Tanihara (“Memories of Matsuko”), the consistently funny film is supported by a well-stitched structure. Pic will squarely hit Japanese funny bones in early November and could travel in style through Asian territories; fests with populist sensibilities will also try it on for size. After tweaking to erase Japanese idiosyncrasies, pic has strong remake potential.

While Takuro Ohki’s (Tsukaji) cooking skills make his diner popular with Kansai locals, his chubby face, deplorable demeanor and appalling fashion sense make him repulsive to the fairer sex. At a clothing store to rent a tux for his friends’ wedding, Takuro is instead fitted out by inventive tailors with their new “handsome” suit, which transforms its wearer into a physically appealing male specimen (Tanihara).

Taking the suitably masculine name of Annin Hikariyama (“Lightning Mountain”), the newly handsome Takuro suddenly finds himself catapulted into the stratosphere of Tokyo fashion as an adored male model and the object of desire for supermodel Raika (Mayumi Sada).

Back at the diner, Takuro keeps his suit and new identity a secret. But complications arise when he hits it off with his plump, pig-faced new employee, Motoe (Miyuki Oshima, wife of scripter Osamu Suzuki), even as Raika’s amorous advances prove too alluring for Takuro to ignore. Unfortunately, every time he’s close to consummating his relationship with Raika, the magical suit’s numerous technological bugs threaten to expose the real man under the Hikariyama persona.

Tight-knit script by tube writer Suzuki is well designed, and never loses its sense of direction or purpose the way so many Nipponese comedies do. Inventive helming by first-timer Tsutomu Hanabusa is imbued with his ad man’s sense of creative imagery and keeps pic visually entertaining throughout. Brief animation sequences are deliberately rough but appealing; CGI is used sparingly for early suit-to-suit transitions, though, as the narrative gathers momentum, helmer favors a quick cut for comic depiction of rapid changes.

Perfs are broad but of high quality. Tsukaji obviously revels in his role’s lack of refinement, while Tanihara displays a George Clooney-esque flair for self-parody. Although a delight individually, both thesps also impress with their ability to create the impression of a shared personality inside and outside of the handsome suit.

Tech credits are pro; however, at market screening caught, transfer from digital to 35mm looked shabby.

The Handsome Suit

Japan

Production

A "The Handsome Suit" Film partners, Asmik Ace Entertainment, Sumitomo Corp., Sony Music Entertainment (Japan), Dentsu Inc, Wowow, Kansai Telecasting Corp. production. (International sales: Asmik Ace Entertainment, Tokyo.) Produced by Masako Yamada. Executive producers, Masao Teshima, Yoshio Osawa, Kohei Takenaka, Yuji Shimamoto, Nobuya Wazaki, Tsuneo Betsumoto, Noritaka Yamaji, Hiroaki Kitano. Directed by Tsutomu Hanabusa. Screenplay, Osamu Suzuki.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Mitsuru Komiyama, Satoshi Kitagawa; editor, Shuichi Kakesu; music, Daisuke Kawaguchi; art director, Toru Yoshida; sound (Dolby Digital), Hiroaki Masuko. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival (market), Oct. 22, 2008. Running time: 115 MIN.

With

Shosuke Tanihara, Muga Tsukaji, Keiko Kitagawa, Mayumi Sada, Miyuki Oshima, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Manami Honjo.
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