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  Publicity Stills of
"The Ramen Girl"
(Courtesy of Shaw)

Genre: Comedy/Romance
Director: Robert Allan Ackerman
Cast: Brittany Murphy, Toshiyuki Nishida, Tammy Blanchard, Sohee Park, Kimiko Yo
RunTime: 2 hrs 2 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://wwws.warnerbros.co.jp/ramengirl/

Opening Day: 7 May 2009


Abruptly abandoned by her boyfriend, a young American woman (Murphy) finds herself suddenly alone and adrift in Tokyo. Lost in the shuffle of a foreign culture, and seeking to console herself, Abby winds up hanging out in her neighborhood ramen shop.

After observing the magical effects of the shop's ramen on the customers, Abby convinces herself that her true path in life is to become a ramen chef. Abby persuades the shop's tyrannical, temperamental Japanese master chef to teach her the art of making ramen. And although their relationship is contentious and rocky, they both discover the most important ingredient of all - that each ramen bowl must contain a universe of feeling and truly be a gift from the heart.

Movie Review:

Truth be told, between the Udons and the Sobas and the Ramens, I'd prefer a bowl of Ramen anytime, and the variety you can find in Japan just boggles the mind. And I guess anything that has that exotic flavour, becomes fair game once the West decides to make a movie out of it. From sports car drifting to martial arts to ballroom dancing, the inevitable has happened in a fusion of sorts, with a blonde, needy American girl finding herself dumped, and finds solace in a bowl of noodles.

But it's not just any bowl of noodle. It's one that warms the soul the way chicken soup does, and thus paving the way for the direction-less girl, Abby (Brittany Murphy) to try and do whatever it takes to become the protege of the ramen chef Maezumi (the veteran Toshiyuki Nishida). Tacky film poster aside, you know the drill with waxing-on-and-waxing-off, where skills are never imparted directly, but indirectly through seemingly meaningless tasks assigned.

And so it provides the fuel in which this film simmers under, with the never ending clash of cultures made all the more difficult, and probably more realistic, since the characters on both sides fail to communicate through language. Those who often complain that characters learn languages in record time, might nod in agreement that it's the chicken and duck talk that happens more often than not. While it provides some avenue for comedy, it soon wears out its welcome, and becomes rather tiring and tedious.

Director Robert Allan Ackerman may have tried to bite off more than he could chew, with the introduction of so many subplots, that many had to be dropped because of the mantra of having too many cooks spoiling a good thing. Characters come and go, and subplots become half-baked without giving some opportunity for them to flesh out. Even the so-called set up of a duel between rival noodle houses fail inject any sense of excitement, though it was an excuse to introduce a ramen grand master played by Tsutomu Yamazaki, whom many will probably recognize from the films Departures and Climbers High.

Departures co-star Kimiko Yo plays the composed wife to Nishida's fiery Maezumi, and delivers her fair share of sympathy toward an often crying Abby. Nishida and Brittany Murphy seem to be playing a specific emotion throughout the film, with him being bad tempered and moody, and she being a cry-baby. Those who subscribe to girl-power would likely balk at the way the protagonist Abby just flips and roll over when her jerk boyfriend Ethan (Gabriel Mann) decides to leave her in Tokyo, though Murphy looks immensely comfortable crying her heart out here, whether being lost in emotion, or out of frustration in learning how to cook the perfect ramen, which incidentally, the film decides to super-fast-forward her practical education.

Curiously lensed in a video-like quality and succumbing to making everything Japanese seem exotic, I was surprised that this film is already making its rounds on a local cable television network. There are some bits of it that you'll find yourself enjoying or chuckling to, and the good ol' lessons that the best things in life often come from the heart and deep within, ultimately it's the zero-to-hero formula packaged a little differently with fairy dust sprinkled for the finale.

Movie Rating:

(Missing an ingredient - the X-factor - to make it work)

Review by Stefan Shih


. Tokyo (2008)

. The House Bunny (2008)

. Udon (2007)


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