(On TV, August 2015) Mix the mismatched-couple trope with the ugly-American tourist clichés and suddenly you’ve got Just Married, a rather dispiriting “comedy” in which a likable newly-wed couple sees their relationship disintegrate into loathing during their European honeymoon. Starring Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy, it’s not much than an average broad comedy film with plot points so unlikely as to court disbelief. It’s all about laughing at European countries, misunderstandings and humiliation… the kind of thing that plays better to a younger or less demanding crowd. For everyone else, the film does work in isolated moments, either as chaos engulfs the couple or they confront unexpected developments. Still, it’s a good thing that we’re virtually assured of a happy ending, because otherwise the film would be quite a bit harder to watch through the progressive fighting. Insubstantial by design, purposefully unsophisticated, Just Married is just good enough to entertain, but nothing more.
(On DVD, October 2010) Stop me if the story sounds familiar: A well-intentioned but generally clueless westerner goes to a foreign land they are forced, through various circumstances, to learn an exotic trade despite language problems and inner struggle. The Ramen Girl is a film on auto-pilot, a slight trifle that has enough script problems to explain why it went straight-to-DVD and why I had never even heard of it before a friend loaned it to me. Exasperating, conventional, awkwardly-staged and almost empty of content, this comedy still remains surprisingly charming. While Brittany Murphy’s untimely 2009 death now lends an unfortunately gravitas to the entire film, The Ramen Girl allows her to play her usual airhead stereotype with a bit of energy… which is pretty much what the script needed. But the best thing about the film is the luscious way is presents food, and the ever-fascinating portrait of Tokyo. These glimpses at another culture more than sustain the film through a ridiculous setup, another annoying carnival of linguistic frustrations and behaviour that would have any rational person calling the police. What’s unfortunate, though, is that despite a few quasi-fantastic scenes, The Ramen Girl never completely embraces the magic realism tone in which the story would have been far more satisfying. Still, my attention was gripped… and I made it halfway through the film before the abrupt realization that I had some instant noodles just waiting for me in my cupboard. This is a film made to be accompanied by its culinary equivalent. Don’t watch it without a bowl of steaming ramen on hand.