HKMDB Daily News

October 30, 2009

Made in China (Variety review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: — dleedlee @ 10:49 am

Made in China
A Beachwood Pictures production. (International sales: Lantern Lane Entertainment, Calabasas, Calif.) Produced by James Choi, Bronwyn Cornelius. Executive producer, Monnie Wills. Directed by Judi Krant. Screenplay, Krant, Dan Sumpter.

With: Jackson Kuehn, Dan Sumpter, Syna Zhang.

A naive inventor from Texas travels to Shanghai to manufacture a “humorous domestic hygiene product” in microbudget indie “Made in China,” from debuting helmer Judi Krant. With yuks derived almost solely from practical-joke items (think sneezing powder, Groucho Marx glasses, oversized pencils), this goofy but good-natured comedy surprisingly copped the narrative feature prize at SXSW. However, limited production values and amateurish thesping will likely confine it to the fest circuit.
Out to achieve his American dream, gullible lug Johnson (Jackson Kuehn) wires money to an Internet conman who promises to introduce him to Chinese businessmen. Slow to realize he’s being cheated, Johnson falls in with Shanghai sharpies Magnus (Dan Sumpter) and Olive (Syna Zhang), also no slouches at milking an easy mark. Silly happy ending involves a photo cameo of fellow Texan Matthew McConaughey using Johnson’s new product. Director Krant’s whimsical animated histories of novelty inventors, including Samuel S. Adams (the joy buzzer), Milton Levine (the ant farm) and Gary Dahl (the pet rock), punctuate the action. Shot on location in East Texas and Shanghai, HD lensing looked dark and soft-focus at screening caught. Most crew members have cameos.

Camera (color, HD), Petter Eldin; editors, Victoria Mauch, Dan Sumpter, Bart Rachmil; music, Matt Mariano. Reviewed at Chicago Film Festival (New Directors — competing), Oct. 21, 2009. (Also in SXSW Film Festival.) Running time: 87 MIN.

Made in China (Screen Daily review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: — dleedlee @ 10:35 am

Made in China

By Duane Byrge

Bottom Line: A droll, superb comedy, “Made in China” needs no warranty.

CHICAGO — An audience favorite at the Chicago International Film Festival, “Made in China” is a frothy delight. A cheery tale about a Texas entrepreneur who takes off to China to get his novelty item manufactured, it bounces along with a casual flair that should ingratiate it as a DVD rental or cable offering. “Made in China” should thrive as a festival entrant and could garnish some big-screen green in college towns or select-site venues.

Screenwriters Dan Sumpter and Judi Krant have concocted a smartly off beat yarn, which Krant has guided into a zesty entertainment. In this unassuming ditty, Texas-raised Johnson (Jackson Keuhn) is a big dreamer, but his heroes are not the usual suspects. He idolizes those quirky folk who made millions on novelty toys, including all your favorites — whoopee cushion, pet rocks, bugs in ice cubes and other great U.S. inventions.

Undeterred by the practical warnings of family and friends, Johnson is doggone sure that he’s got a big moneymaker: It’s a “humorous domestic hygiene product,” which is such a great thing he won’t unveil its nature to anyone. To boot, he’s rounded up a pocketful of venture capital for his novelty item and hooked up with a Chinese businessman via Craigslist.

Both in Texas and in China, Jackson is clearly a fish out of water: Once he hits the Mainland, everything that could go wrong does go wrong, courtesy of a scam artist (Dan Sumpter) who regularly fleeces Craigslist pigeons.

Sent on a wild-goose chase through big-city slums and out to far burgs, his optimistic can-do attitude, together with his guidebook Mandarin vocabulary, carries him through. Amid his many wanderings and missteps, Johnson hooks up with a vivacious Chinese girl.

As the good-natured, determined Texan, Keuhn is down-home appealing: We root for him with every wrong turn he makes. As the scam-man, Sumpter is versatile in his many guises.

Technical contributions reflect the aw-shucks whimsy of the film: Special praise to Matt Mariano for the zingy, light music, and cinematographer Petter Eldin for his droll and snappy compositions.

Venue: Chicago International Film Festival

Production company: Beachwood Pictures
Cast: Jackson Keuhn, Syna Zang, Deng Jeng, Dan Sumpter
Director: Judi Krant
Screenwriters: Dan Sumpter, Judi Krant
Producers: James Choi, Judi Krant, Bronwyn Cornelius
Director of photography: Petter Eldin
Music: Matt Mariano
Editors: Victoria Mauch, Dam Sumpter, Bart Rachmil
No rating, 87 minutes

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