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Oddball 'Kumiko' takes too long to get moving

Tom Long
The Detroit News

"Kumiko the Treasure Hunter" is one of those resolutely weird movies with a premise that sounds more charming than the film actually is.

The premise is this: Kumiko, a lonely woman in Tokyo, follows a map that leads her to a buried VHS tape of "Fargo" in a cave by the sea. She then becomes convinced that the tape itself is a map directing her to the large stash of money buried in the snow — in the movie — near Fargo, North Dakota. So she heads off to Fargo to find the (nonexistent) buried money.

OK, it's nutty, but there's the potential for some magic in the nuttiness. And magic does — eventually — appear, as Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi, best known for "Babel" and "Pacific Rim"), wearing a long cape made out of a cheap motel bedspread, wanders the snow-covered plains looking for her imagined treasure. Director David Zellner, who wrote the script with brother Nathan Zellner, gets some great mere-mortal-against-nature shots.

In fact, once Kumiko gets to the U.S. the film becomes an oddball mix of comic road trip and mental illness that's at least interesting. But yeesh, getting "Kumiko" going takes way too long.

The first half of the film is an examination of Kumiko's empty life. Why she was following the map that led her to the VHS tape is never explained. Nor is it clear why she has a working videotape player. All that's clear is Kumiko has a boring, isolated life — no friends save a caged rabbit, a dull job she hates, a boss who abuses her, a mother yelling on the other end of the phone. Unfortunately, watching Kumiko's dull life turns out to be pretty dull itself.

Once Kumiko flies to the U.S. things get a bit more interesting, but as they progress, it becomes ever more clear that Kumiko is downright mentally unstable, not cute. File this one under "odd and interesting but ... "

TLong@detroitnews.com

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'Kumiko the Treasure Hunter'

GRADE: C

Not rated

Running time: 105 minutes