Film review: Namiya – Chinese remake, starring Jackie Chan, lacks the enigmatic poetry of Japanese original

New version sticks largely to story of original, in which three delinquents take shelter in an abandoned store and find a magical portal to the past, but simplifies it and changes narrative focus; it’s clumsy and less satisfying

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 9:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 9:31pm

2/5 stars

Barely two months after the Japanese adaptation of Keigo Higashino’s bestselling novel The Miracles of the Namiya General Store opened in Hong Kong, a Chinese remake arrives, with Jackie Chan installed as the eponymous store owner prone to penning letters of advice.

Directed by Han Jie (Mr. Tree), Namiya sticks to the basic premise of the source material. Three juvenile delinquents (Karry Wang Junkai, Dong Zijian and Dilraba Dilmurat) seek refuge in an abandoned grocery store, and discover the letter box is a magical portal between the present and 1993. As letters magically appear during the course of their night in hiding, they attempt to respond, emulating the advice famously proffered by the store’s elderly proprietor.

Beyond this, the Chinese version differs quite considerably from the Japanese original. One of the three adolescents is now female, while the roles of the store and Namiya himself are somewhat diminished. A nearby orphanage called Rainbow House now provides the narrative focal point, to which every major character in both timelines is somehow connected.

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Other story points have been simplified. In this version, the story is divided into clear-cut chapters, each focusing on a different character’s search for advice, rather than weaving the disparate story strands together. The magical letterbox also seems to require detailed explanation, rather than simply being embraced as a fantastical device.

Ultimately, both films are fuelled by nostalgia for the recent past, and finding the confidence to face life’s challenges head-on. But the enigmatic poetry of the original has been lost in this clumsy reworking.

Namiya opens on January 18

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