Friday, November 08, 2013

Sake-Bomb: Have a Drink Cousin

As a sake-brewing apprentice about to succeed his master, Naoto relates to the potent potable on a deep level.  It is almost sacrilegious to ask him to drink a sake-bomb (the old sake shot submerged in a beer).  Nonetheless, he acquits himself fairly well when he hits the California party scene with his snarky cousin (better than the churlish vlogger, in fact).  Eventually, everyone will learn a thing or two in Junya Sakino’s extended family road comedy, Sake-Bomb (trailer here), which opens today in Los Angeles.

Naoto could not possibly be more earnest.  When agrees to take over his master’s brewery, he also follows the old man’s advice, taking a week’s vacation to finish working through any lingering regrets he might have in his personal life. His pursuit of Olivia, his long lost summer lover, brings him to the Moritas’ apartment in Los Angeles. 

Sebastian is crashing there with his father, because he is unemployed and has just been dumped by his girlfriend. He is not exactly keen to shuttle Naoto up to Petaluma in hopes of finding the elusive Olivia, but his father insists. Naturally, they first take a detour to a party in Irvine, so Sebastian can make a complete clown of himself in front of his ex.  At least, they meet a few interesting types there, including Joslyn, the naughty graphic novelist who catches Sebastian’s eye.

Pound for pound, there might be more identity jokes in S-B than any other film this year, largely taking the form of Sebastian’s video posts.  He is angry with Asian women who date white guys.  He is angry with white women who do not date Asian men.  He is angry with white people who cannot distinguish between Asian nationalities.  He is not too thrilled with the Chinese either, so buckle up.  On one hand, some of this material pushes the envelope of politeness.  On the other hand, it is pretty funny sometimes.

As Sebastian, Eugene Kim never holds back on the attitude.  He is almost too abrasive, considering the audience obviously is supposed to embrace him during the third act.  However, likability is not a problem for Gaku Hamada, the popular Japanese star of Potechi (Chips), who subtly but surely conveys the strength of character beneath Naoto’s naivety. Together, their over-the-top and understated personas play off each other quite nicely.  Future star-in-the-making Jessika Van also scores in her scene as a friend of Sebastian’s girlfriend, giving him what-for.  Yet, for a certain demographic, former porn star and California gubernatorial candidate Mary Carey upstages everyone as, you know, a porn star.

Sake-Bomb never reinvents the buddy movie-wheel, but it has an edge and a good deal of heart. Better than the typical Phillips and Apatow grind ‘em outs, Sake-Bomb is recommended for fans of slightly raucous but well-intentioned rom-coms when it opens today (11/8) in Los Angeles at the Downtown Independent.