Film review: 'The After-Dinner Mysteries' has that sinking feeling
The After-Dinner Mysteries
Starring: Keiko Kitagawa, Sho Sakurai, Kippei Shiina
Director: Masato Hijikata
Category: IIB (Japanese, Cantonese and English)
Japanese television shows may not have as large a following outside their home country as Korean dramas, but they do have fans in Hong Kong. Some, like Fuji TV's Bayside Shakedown, have made successful moves to the big screen, and the latest attempt to do so involves Fuji's The After-Dinner Mysteries.
Already the subject of three best-selling novels and two manga books, as well as a popular television series, The After-Dinner Mysteries revolves around a likeable heiress who moonlights as a police detective, her butler and crime-solving partner, plus the buffoonish police superior who has no clue that one of his underlings is rich beyond his wildest dreams.
The ambitious big-screen offering begins with a scene in Singapore involving a mysterious stranger. The action then shifts to Hosho conglomerate heiress Reiko Hosho (Keiko Kitagawa), and her butler, Kageyama (Sho Sakurai, from the boy band Arashi), on board The Princess Reiko, a luxury cruise ship owned by her family.
Reiko's hopes for a relaxing cruise are dashed when a corpse is found on board, and she learns that her boss, Detective Kazamatsuri (Kippei Shiina), is also on the ship. He ropes her in to help with the investigations and she enlists the services of Kageyama, whose sleuthing abilities are superior to those of the cops.
But finding out what's behind the man's death turns out to be a difficult task, even with Kageyama's assistance. There are a considerable number of suspects - including a rough-mannered lottery winner (Rie Miyazawa), and a pair of small-time thieves (Naoto Takenaka and Koji Okura) - aboard a craft so large it's like a small town.
Featuring much of the same cast as the television series, and directed by veteran small-screen director Masato Hijikata, it's perhaps inevitable that the work has something of a lightweight TV show feel to it - despite the decision to shoot more than half of the film overseas.
The cruise liner and foreign locations add visually to the movie, and give it the cosmopolitan air that its makers clearly wanted. But having the ship's singer (Nanami Sakuraba) croon an English ballad was a bad move, as it sounds like she doesn't understand the lyrics.
Worse, although the film is structured as a stand-alone work, it's hard to shake off the idea that much of the plot will be more interesting to those who are already familiar with the lead characters.
Fans of boy band member Sakurai will undoubtedly get much more enjoyment out of his prominent role than the rest of us.
The After-Dinner Mysteries opens on September 12