Release Date: July 13th, 2007 (The Imaginasian) by VIZ Pictures.
The Cast: Yasuko Matsuyuki, Etsushi Toyokawa, Yû Aoi, Shizuyo Yamazaki, Ittoku Kishibe, Junko Fuji.
Directed by Sang-il Lee.
In Japanese with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: In 1965 Japan, Madoka (Matsuyuki) trains four girls from a coal-mining town how to hula dance for the new Hawaiian Cultural Center. Based on a true story.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Even though Hula Girls has lively characters and a by-the-numbers, unimaginative plot. Kimiko (Aoi) and Sanae (Toyokawa) are best friends who live in a small coal-mining town where their family’s income relies on jobs in the coal-mining field. The construction of the new Hawaiian Cultural Center threatens to downsize the coal-mining company and might even shut it down, which frustrates the workers. Meanwhile, Madoka, a dance teacher, comes to town and finds four girls, Kimiko, Sanae, Sayuri (Yamakazi) and Shoko, who want to learn how to become hula dancer for the Cultural Center. The girls’ parents think they’re merely wasting their time when they should be coal-mining instead, which represent the main plot conflict. Will the parents finally approve of hula dancing? Will the four hula dancers impress everyone in the big, imminent show and learn to listen to Madoka? Co-writer/director Sang-il Lee telegraphs the answers to these questions quite often with the very by-the-numbers plot. Some lines of dialogue will make your eyes roll from listening to corniness. Yasuko Matsuyuki gives a strong performance that combines charm, liveliness and even some klutziness. It would have been more interesting to make her the protagonist instead of Kimiko and to include more character development. Also, there’s sadly no mention of the history and importance of hula dancing, which would have given broader perspective for both the girls’ parents and any audience members unfamiliar with it. Despite these flaws, Hula Girls at least manages to be mildly entertaining thanks to its lively cast and a fast enough pace that rarely drags.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: None, other than the clichéd, yet upbeat message about not giving up to follow your dream.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: An unimaginative plot and occasional corny dialogue.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 3
IN A NUTSHELL: A very lively cast and an upbeat message barely compensates for an unimaginative plot with occasional corny dialogue.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: DVD
The "H" Menu