Its amusingly off-kilter humor underserved by pedestrian packaging, Dave Boyle’s sophomore feature, “White on Rice,” is the kind of comedy that hinges on a protagonist near-imbecilic in all matters social, physical and especially romantic. Focusing on a Japanese emigre whose rudimentary English is the least of his shortcomings, this genial effort scores laughs but could have used some of the presentational snap of not-dissimilar exercises like “Napoleon Dynamite.” Self-distributing later this year, the low-budgeter has modest theatrical prospects that should presage improved ancillary exposure.
Hajime, aka Jimmy (Hiroshi Watanabe), is a 40-year-old odd-jobber and bit-part actor (glimpsed in a mock samurai pic dubbed by Bruce Campbell and Pepe Serna) who moved to the U.S. when his ex-wife stopped taking care of him in Tokyo. Living with tolerant sister Aiko (Nae) and brainiac nephew Bob (Justin Kwong), he’s a torment — even a health hazard — to his brother-in-law, Tak (Mio Takada). Tactless, childish and skill-free, Jimmy is oblivious to his haplessness, especially when pursuing comely cousin Ramona (Lynn Chen). The script could have used another polish, but a bigger problem is the nondescript lensing and staging, which dampen the material’s quirky appeal.