Film note: “Big Dreams, Little Tokyo”


An offering from the ‘American Cinema’ section of the Filmfest, Big Dreams, Little Tokyo is a light-on-its-feet, off-beat comedy about a determined American businessman obsessed—and I mean obsessed—with Japan.

Big Dreams, Little Tokyo is screening as part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival on April 22 and 24. For information and tickets ($9), see

The film begins with the main character, Boyd, attempting to sell the book he’s written on how to speak English he’s targeted to the Japanese community. The scenarios offered up are pretty clever—Boyd sneaking into bookstores and cornering the customers—telling them he’s got better books for cheaper rates—and then making quick cash deals before the store owners chase him out of the store. Boyd is clearly just a young guy, trying to build his business and pay the rent.

And speaking of the rent… Boyd’s roommate, Jerome, provides a great deal of the film’s wry humor. Jerome is intent on becoming a sumo wrestler, but his body weight comes in far below what would be necessary, so he focuses on eating everything in sight and cleverly defends that he’s ‘working’ when he’s eating. What the two of these characters share is their lack of place in their respective cultures. While Boyd is attempting to be a fixture in the Japanese culture, Jerome is stuck between both, claiming that he’s ‘too Japanese to be American, and too American to be Japanese’

Big Dreams, Little Tokyo is a worthwhile film to see for its humorous exploration of clashing cultures. The issue of English as a second language is a rather serious one nowadays amongst many cultures living in America, but the film takes that issue—specifically with the Japanese language—and flips it to examine on a small level the obstacles folks must face when they’re trying to navigate a culture that isn’t primarily their own.

David Boyle, as both writer and director, creates a very easy-going pace with the film, not rushing the simplistic story, but really allowing the scenes to unfold naturally with informative dialogue. Boyd and Jerome are a classic ‘buddy-comedy’ team with their opposites-attract aura—similar to The Odd Couple—and even aspects of Harry and Kumar seem to seep in at certain moments.

Big Dreams, Little Tokyo is a decent entry to this year’s festival and earns its place as a worthy film, taking a humorous look at one man’s entertaining struggle to find solid ground in multiple cultures.