Saturday, June 26, 2010

On-Demand: MADE IN CHINA --Judi Krant & Dan Sumpter's shaggy dog tale

If you've ever been particularly taken with the idea of novelty items -- from the Slinky to the Pet Rock -- and how these are created and marketed, then MADE IN CHINA may be the film for you. Even if you don't give a rat's ass, there's still some odd fun to be had from this very DIY-looking piece of low-definition video from co-writer/
director (her first film) Judi Krant (shown below) and newcomer co-writer/co-star Dan Sumpter (who is indeed sumpin!). What the movie lacks in star quality (a rather one-note performance from lead actor Jackson Kuehn, although that note is not without its occasional charm) and glamor (DIY has rarely looked cruddier), it somewhat makes up via the goofy and bizarre.

Mr. Kuehn, below, plays a young man named Johnson, who has invented a "humorous domestic hygiene product" (let your imaginations race!) that he dearly wants to take to market.  But how?  As many such items are made in China (a title lurks there, don't you think?), off he goes eastward, over the objections of his mom and sis, with his young-life savings in tow.

As is clear from the first frame, this fellow does everything wrong; so away from the USA, it only gets worse. He has arranged for a marketer in China to help him out, but the fellow appears to have taken the money and run. With a little suspect luck he happens upon a rather dapper man who knows the Chinese marketing ropes and agrees to get Johnson's foot in the door.  Adventures ensue.

These include being fitted for a quite unnecessary suit....

Meeting a pretty young girl on a train...

Getting the poop kicked out of him by two young ladies whose apartment he has unknowingly invaded...

and getting deeper and deeper into the world of that marketing maven, played by Mr. Sumpter, above, with leg, and below, with turban, reciting Hamlet's "To Be or Not to Be" soliloquy in Man-
darin. (Yes, but you will have to see and hear it to believe it).

Sumpter, whose first film this is, seems a natural actor and pretty damn versatile, too. He goes from an utterly dapper man-of-the-world to sad-sack creep and back again, stopping at several short sharp characterizations along the way.  Somebody grab this guy and put him to work!  As he also co-wrote the script, it would appear there's talent aplenty here.

I wish Made in China were better. Even at 87 minutes it seems too long, relying on lazy charm and situation to do the work that better plotting, dialog and craftsmanship might have managed more smartly.  But it's still fun and different.  And yes, as you'll suspect as the movie meanders along, you're going to have to wait until almost the end to discover what that humorous-domestic-hygiene-product entails.

Made in China (that's one of the prettier, less grungy shots, above) has begun its run via IFC-On-Demand, where it will screen for another three months. To check its availability in your area,
simply click here.


Don Requena said...

Where is Sumpter from?

James van Maanen, said...

Good question, Don. I just spent half an hour trying to locate some more info on Sumpter -- with no results. has very little, and Googling him wasn't much help, either. (You've probably tried all this, too, right?)

So, Dan -- if you're out there: check in. Where are you from? And what are you doing these days? We wish you well.