This film is exactly what I wanted, but done poorly. I wanted a funny, emotional movie where an American girl finds a passion and learns from a Japanese master, while neither of them speaks the other's language.
What I got was a naive, stubborn, incompetent American girl (who looks and sounds a bit like Ariana Grande before she got mega-famous) named Abby that doesn't learn or grow until it's the part of the movie where she's learned everything. I didn't really feel the character development and there wasn't even a montage of her failing repeatedly.
The "joke" of not understanding the other (promptly followed by yelling at each other) is made right up until the big emotional scene where Abby suddenly "masters the recipe" and speaks Japanese fluently. It got old quick and barely made me laugh in the first place.
The Age Old Tale
The short premise is a girl from America follows her boyfriend to Japan and then she gets dumped and is left in Japan. She isn't totally stuck because it's established that she has the option to go home, but after she sees a ramen shop across from her apartment, she goes in and discovers her passion, I guess? It was conveyed but not very well. This movie is basically The Karate Kid, but instead of kung-fu for self-defense, it's making ramen to have some kind of purpose in life. While I can respect that motive and drive, it was a mediocre execution. I'm a huge fan of noodle soups so on paper, this movie was right up my alley.
It was almost good a lot of times. For instance, the movie used that trope where the old master is really harsh on the student while praising them behind closed doors. I love that trope! It's a good trope! Because then it's satisfying when the student masters the craft and finally understands the purpose of all the hard work! Then the master nods and smiles and we're right into the climax of the movie! Except none of that actually happens. The master is harsh constantly and still talks trash behind closed doors until the last 20-30 minutes of the movie.
I briefly mentioned this earlier, but as a noodle fan, it was disappointing that we didn't even get a montage with some slow-mo shots of learning to make noodles, or cutting vegetables or something. Abby accompanies the master to the shop like once and there could have been some cool learning there. Here's a gif I found of a hipster making ramen that shows more about the process than anything Abby learned.
Where's the Focus???
The tension of the film feels thrown in "for the drama" and felt unnecessary.
While Abby is off buying ingredients, the master sits and smokes a cigarette. While he does, his rival comes up and is all, "The Grand Master will be here soon and give his blessing to my son's broth and he will be my successor ho ho ho!" And the master goes, "Yeah well my student is gonna get the blessing to and if she doesn't, I'll quit making noodles."
Not only did this come out of no where, but the movie already had potential for heartwarming goodness because the master's son left to learn French cuisine, leaving the master with no successor. Drama! Whatever shall he do??? Then in walks this girl who wants to learn to make noodles. A solution! Albeit, not ideal, but a solution nonetheless! The movie ends up taking both of these drama options and neither one really feels completed.
I'm ragging on the movie a lot, but honestly it wasn't that bad. I've just seen this film done better and was let down. I groaned a couple of times because of lost potential, but I didn't totally hate it. It's light and kinda fun and has some emotion at the very end. And there's lots of noodles.
Rating: 5/10 stars. One star for every time Abby speaks has an emotion that isn't stubbornly yelling at her sensei.
Noodle Rating: 100/100 stars. One star for every bowl of ramen.