Big Dreams Little Tokyo (review)

Sometimes cinematic idiots are charming, and sometimes they’re just idiots. Clearly, screenwriter-director-star Dave Boyle hopes it’s the former with his low-budget comedy about the postadolescent process of finding oneself, but — the originality of his premise aside — it isn’t. Boyle is Boyd, a Forrest Gump-esque young man who fancies himself an entrepreneur and “businessman” — that’s what he calls himself, a “businessman,” because he seems to think it sounds impressive — with a major line in the Japanese ex-pat culture of his unnamed West Coast city. He’s sort-of selling translation services and language and culture lessons to Japanese seeking to become more American, but, bizarrely, even though his schemes scream “amateur hour,” he somehow manages to pull them off. The humor mix is wildly off-balance, veering from over-the-top cartoonish — mostly focused around Boyd’s Japanese-American roommate (Jayson Watabe) and how much food the wannabe sumo wrestler can put away — to would-be sentimental pathos. Boyle may have a talent for filmmaking that will be honed in later work, but he’d do well to remember that if he wants us to suspend our disbelief when it comes to his protagonist’s shortcomings, he might choose not to have characters onscreen react to him like the pitiable naif he is… or at least he’s got to find a way to bridge that chasm. He hasn’t done it here. (Don’t get suckered into the movie by the announced presence of James Kyson Lee, who’s so appealing as Ando on the TV show Heroes — he’s barely even in the couple of scenes he’s in.) Extras include cast and and crew commentary, two featurettes, deleted scenes, storyboard-to-film comparison, and more.

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