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Handsome Suit
Handsome Suit

The Beautiful and the Ugly meet in Handsome Suit.
Japanese: ハンサム★スーツ
Year: 2008  

Tsutomu Hanabusa


Osamu Suzuki


Muga Tsukaji, Shosuke Tanihara, Miyuki Oshima, Keiko Kitagawa, Mayumi Sada, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Manami Honjo, Nozomi Sasaki, Hironori Yamamoto, Brother Tom

  The Skinny:

With its local-based humor and low-brow gimmicks, Handsome Suits is very amusing for those in on the jokes. However, for everyone else it's just a carbon copy of every other comedy about unattractive people.

Kevin Ma:

Handsome Suit is a hybrid of Japanese pop culture and Hong Kong-style low-brow comedy with a killer concept – a suit that turns a fat, unattractive cook into a handsome man – that has probably been done before by a “feces-urine-fart” comedy auteur like Wong Jing. And if it hasn't been done yet, the producers of Handsome Suit should get ready to either sell those remake rights (they've apparently already made their money back selling distribution rights) or get their lawyers ready in case someone else makes an overseas knock-off.

However, maybe the producers should get ready to defend themselves as well, since a similar concept has indeed been done before. In the hit Korean comedy 200 Pounds Beauty, an obese woman gets plastic surgery and becomes an attractive, thin beauty. Here, overweight and repellent chef Takuro (Muga Tsukaji) is lured into testing out a new product for a suit-maker – a suit similar in appearance to the Michelin mascot that can give anyone an attractive exterior.

Tired of the scornful looks of others and rejected by beautiful waitress Hiroko (Keiko Kitagawa), Takuro decides to put on the suit and becomes An-nin, who happens to look and sound like the kind-of handsome Shosuke Tanihara. In what seems like a dream sequence (except it isn't) An-nin bewitches every woman he runs into and immediately attracts the attention of a model agency manager, who decides to make him a star. Finding himself in the glamorous world of pretty people, Takuro has to keep up his An-nin act - that is, as long as his new suit works properly.

First-time director Tsutomu Hanabusa strays expectedly far from reality, directing his actors to exaggerate every expression and action in a plea for laughs. Handsome Suit has been particularly successful in overseas sales, but its strongest element is actually its references to Japanese pop culture. Popular gags from the 90s, decade-old pop songs, and even the use of the suit-making shop's logo music all provide tongue-in-cheek laughs for audiences in the know. It's unlikely that overseas versions of the film will be successful with the same brand of humor. For example, the Hong Kong dubbed version, featuring the voices of 90s comedy duo SoftHard (Eric Kot and Jan Lam), uses local equivalents for only some of the Japan-exclusive humor. The rest becomes either incoherent throwaway lines or is kept in its original Japanese versions.

Handsome Suit may be about dream fulfillment for the unattractive, but its most engaging sections are when the focus is on the unattractive Takuro. Except for the lure of pretty people, Hanabusa and writer Osamu Suzuki never really explain what attracts Takuro to his new world of stardom. Instead, the film becomes most involving during the relatively down-to-earth sections dealing with Takuro and his new and also overweight waitress Motoe (Miyuki Oshima of comedienne trio Morisanchu). Takuro eventually realizes the importance of true beauty – a process that sums up almost every film about the physically unattractive – and while his journey is not as comedy-driven as the absurd An-nin sections, it's easily more involving and worth caring about.

Despite the filmmakers' good intentions about realizing true beauty, they also take a bit of a turn at the very end with a predictable and politically incorrect twist, saying that what they really mean is that the message of true beauty only applies to fat, unattractive men. The filmmakers seem to be so sure that Handsome Suit will only apply to the Takuro-type male audience that even as the film lands back in reality, it feels that it needs to fulfill the projected dreams of its target audience even at the expense of alienating the women in the crowd. Interesting side note: screenwriter Suzuki is also Oshima's husband. Considering the ending's implications, Oshima must have a great sense of humor, which would make Suzuki a very lucky man.

Up to that point, Handsome Suit is a mildly successful take on a formula, though the actual overlong execution of it is so by-the-book that it doesn't provide much surprise for post-Shrek audiences. What is worth watching here is the cultural-based humor and the lead actors. Both Tsukaji and Tanihara show a surprising amount of self-deprecation in their performances, though they surely have no qualms about sharing scenes with attractive actresses like Keiko Kitagawa and Mayumi Sada. Just like the female audience of Handsome Suits, the two male actors have surely learned that there's a price for everything. Then again, Handsome Suit features a motorcyclist bouncing into the air off a fat person's butt, so why take it so seriously? We certainly wouldn't if it was Cantonese and made in Hong Kong. (Kevin Ma, 2009)


DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
Two-Disc Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Original Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable Japanese and English Subtitles
Various Extras

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