Review: ‘Made in China’

A naive inventor from Texas travels to Shanghai to manufacture a 'humorous domestic hygiene product' in this microbudget indie.

A naive inventor from Texas travels to Shanghai to manufacture a “humorous domestic hygiene product” in microbudget indie “Made in China,” from debuting helmer Judi Krant. With yuks derived almost solely from practical-joke items (think sneezing powder, Groucho Marx glasses, oversized pencils), this goofy but good-natured comedy surprisingly copped the narrative feature prize at SXSW. However, limited production values and amateurish thesping will likely confine it to the fest circuit.

Out to achieve his American dream, gullible lug Johnson (Jackson Kuehn) wires money to an Internet conman who promises to introduce him to Chinese businessmen. Slow to realize he’s being cheated, Johnson falls in with Shanghai sharpies Magnus (Dan Sumpter) and Olive (Syna Zhang), also no slouches at milking an easy mark. Silly happy ending involves a photo cameo of fellow Texan Matthew McConaughey using Johnson’s new product. Director Krant’s whimsical animated histories of novelty inventors, including Samuel S. Adams (the joy buzzer), Milton Levine (the ant farm) and Gary Dahl (the pet rock), punctuate the action. Shot on location in East Texas and Shanghai, HD lensing looked dark and soft-focus at screening caught. Most crew members have cameos.

Made in China

Production

A Beachwood Pictures production. (International sales: Lantern Lane Entertainment, Calabasas, Calif.) Produced by James Choi, Bronwyn Cornelius. Executive producer, Monnie Wills. Directed by Judi Krant. Screenplay, Krant, Dan Sumpter.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Petter Eldin; editors, Victoria Mauch, Dan Sumpter, Bart Rachmil; music, Matt Mariano. Reviewed at Chicago Film Festival (New Directors -- competing), Oct. 21, 2009. (Also in SXSW Film Festival.) Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Jackson Kuehn, Dan Sumpter, Syna Zhang.
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