Made in China -- Film Review


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