Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald – Review
by Miguel Douglas on January 29, 2010
A radio play is going to go on air at a Tokyo radio station. It is a weepy melodrama written by housewife Miyako, who is the winner of the competition run by the station. Suddenly, the hot-tempered lead actress Nokko decides she wants the name of her character to be Mary Jane and not Ritsuko. That leads to the chain of events will change the play completely.
Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald take a hilarious look into the world of radio drama production and the chaos that unexpectedly ensues when creative liberties are taken to the extreme. The film takes place almost entirely within the confines of the broadcasting studio, where common housewife Miyako (Kyōka Suzuki) has won the opportunity to have her proposed script—entitled “Woman of Destiny”—turned into a radio drama. All turns out well during rehearsal, but when the main star of the production—the egotistical and stubborn Nokko (Keiko Toda)—suddenly decides that she dislikes her character’s rather casual background, the script has to be haphazardly rewritten in a hurry to accommodate her wants before the live broadcasting begins. It doesn’t help that a co-star of the production, Hiromitsu (Jun Inoue), feels a sense of jealously by the changes made to Nokko’s character and demands a change for his character as well. When the show goes on the air with the changes in place, the staff soon discovers that the changes they made have led to some crucial plot inconsistencies. This forces producer Ushijima (Masahiko Nishimura) and staff to work out the kinks while the show is broadcasting live, leading to various comedic moments of trial-and-error and imaginative solutions.
It’s this descent into chaos that Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald truly shines as a comedic exploration of the radio industry and the pressure to perform well within Japanese society. The rather frantic pace in which the broadcasting staff seeks out solutions to the constant stream of changes made to the script, allows for various moments of comical genius to be showcased within the film. It is often in these moments that film presents an underlying theme of dedication; rather than just call the broadcast off as a complete and utter failure, the cast and crew still push forward diligently no matter how strangely bizarre the script changes end up being. And the changes do end up being extremely perilous—essentially transforming an innocent script about love into a daring excursion into the likes of guns, natural disasters and space travel—it’s absolutely hilarious to see how far they go in order to remedy simple mistakes they made previously. And while Miyako’s original script gets absolutely butchered, she is motivated to see that her script does retain at least one thing—a happy ending. The journey to see her realization come to fruition provides some of the most exhilarating and captivating moments within the film.
It’s also astonishing to see that each character within the film has a different and unique personality, which are all showcased in abundance throughout. From the quiet and proper Miyako, to the angst-filled and stressful producer Ushijima, all the way through the entire voice acting and production staff, Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald expertly allows its characters to indulge in their own boisterous traits. They hold the film together, and like the characters themselves, truly provide the film with a unique personality all on its own.
I believe it’s also important to note that this film is the directorial debut of Koki Mitani, who was primarily involved with theatre work before stepping into the world of film directing. His previous experience with theatre can be seen within the film, and quite effectively at that. His use of long filming takes truly envelope the viewer into the frenetic atmosphere of the film, and doesn’t hinder the pacing of it at all. We are led from moment-to-moment as we witness the escalating pressure to keep the show under control and going, and it doesn’t slow down one bit—basically allowing us as the viewer to seemingly become one of the staff ourselves in way. It’s this personal atmosphere that also lends itself to the actual characters of the film. While not entirely deep concerning development, the characters are strengthen due to the frenzied pacing of the film—by the end of the entire ordeal, we feel as though we know these characters as real individuals with distinctive personalities, and are just as happy and glad as they are when it finally concludes. It’s the heart and determination of the characters to finally see it through to the end that works out in favor of the film.
And that’s essentially what’s Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald is—an entertaining and warmhearted film. It provides an amusing look into the eccentric behaviors of the people who occupy the world of radio broadcasting, as well as looks at how creative integrity can be diminished when it comes to corporate involvement. It’s also a film that harks back to the good days of cinematic comedy that relied heavily on the strength of its cast and their performances to provide moments of comedic gold rather than succumbing to the lowest denominator in terms of showcasing humor. Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald is a refreshing view into the madness—and hilarity—that ensues within the world of radio entertainment.