Jackson Kuehn, Dan Sumpter, Syna Zhang
Johnson: Stop for a moment. Take a deep breath. Take a good look at the world around you. There are dozens of inventions within touching distance that you’ve probably never even considered…
After having no luck finding investors in America, Johnson (Kuehn), a novelty item fanatic/inventor, travels to Shanghai, China to meet with a man who wants to help him realize his dream. He immediately discovers that he has been conned out of some money, but in the process meets another business man who may be able to help him find a manufacturer.
All aboard the quirky train!
Okay, I like the idea of this one more than I like the final product. The dramatic turns in it actually work better than the attempts at comedy, but overall it’s pleasant enough. Not something I’d recommend particularly highly though.
We spend most of the movie with Johnson, the wannabe inventor who thinks he has the next big idea in novelty products. Jackson Kuehn’s performance isn’t exactly irritating, but it wasn’t overly likable either. I think it had more to do with the character itself, though. Johnson is impossibly naive, running head first into situations that should be raising red flags and sounding alarm bells all around him. There are things that are meant to be mysteries to both Johnson and the audience, but if they’re so easily predictable for me, it’s hard to buy that Johnson would fall for this stuff. Even if he is too narrowly focused on achieving his goal.
Still, it’s not a bad story, it just tips its hand too much. Plus, there are a few too many cliche moments thrown in to fill out the running time. It was inevitable that Johnson would meet a local girl, have trouble communicating with her, yet still hit it off and spend the day seeing the sites with her. That does afford us the chance to see some nice locations, but the situation just never felt authentic.
In the end, Johnson just wasn’t a likable enough character for me to truly care about his plight. It was a tolerable movie, with a good story and a few laughs here and there, but I still found myself checking how far into it I was from time to time.
The overall concept of this one reminded me of Lost In Translation, a much better film, in my opinion. I know some people didn’t like that one, but I thought it was more visually interesting, amusing, and well acted than Made In China, while still having that small movie feel to it.
I learned a lot about who invented various novelty items and why…
10 – 2 for just not being as funny as it hoped to be – .8 for making a good story too predictable – 1.3 for a not so appealing lead character = 5.9