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.

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.

White on Rice

Production

A Tiger Industry Films release of a Brainwave, Malatova Prods., Tiger Industry production. Produced by Duane Andersen, Dominic Fratto. Executive producer, Howard Hayes. Co-producers, Michael Lerman, Meg Boyle. Directed by Dave Boyle. Screenplay, Boyle, Joel Clark.

Crew

Camera (color, Super 16-to-35mm), Bill Otto; editor, Duane Andersen; music, Mark Schulz; production designer, Meg Boyle. Reviewed at San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival (competing), March 17, 2009. English, Japanese dialogue. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Hiroshi Watanabe, Nae, Mio Takada, Lynn Chen, James Kyson Lee, Justin Kwong, Pepe Serna, Joy Osmanski, Cathy Shim, Ron D. Eliot, Bruce Campbell.
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