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Based on a true story, Hula Girls is a heartwarming comedy about coal miners' daughters who took a once-in-a-lifetime chance to escape their monotonous lives only to become unwitting heroes to their depressed mining town as well as the whole of Japan.
Loaded with underdog heroics and bursting with youthful enthusiasm, "Hula Girls" may be utterly predictable but it sure is a lot of fun. Fact-based tale of girls forming a hula troupe in a dying mining town in mid-'60s Japan has danced its way to beefy B.O. since opening domestically on Sept. 23, and stands a chance of shaking its skirts into foreign markets. Fests and specialty broadcasters will want to snap up this crowd-pleaser...Fourth feature by Japan-based ethnic Korean director Lee Sang-il finds him dealing with lighter subject matter, and with a much better touch, than on previous effort, hostage drama "Scrap Metal" (2005)..."Hula" is told through the eyes of Kimiko Tanikawa (Yu Aoi), a spirited teenager living in the coal mining community of Joban, in the country's chilly northeast...Although there's not a single real surprise right up to the moment when the girls make their triumphant debut, a gallery of well-drawn characters and keen observations of small-town life make the time pass pleasantly...Well-cast pic features perky perfs by young cast members and a nice role for Matsuyuki as the dancer who overcomes initial aloofness and embraces job.
Jen Johans, Film Intuition
...like Whale Rider and Bend it Like Beckham, the film is an ideal choice for parents of teen girls hoping to broaden their daughters' horizons by introducing them to the world of foreign film.
Maitland McDonagh, TV Guide
Sweet-natured, formulaic and ripe for an American remake.