Minari (CREDIT: Josh Ethan Johnson/A24)

Starring: Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, Will Patton

Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Running Time: 115 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Hilariously Surprising Potty Humor

Release Date: February 12, 2021 (Theaters)/February 26, 2021 (On Demand)

Minari is the heartwarming tale of a boy and his kooky grandma, who at first don’t get along very well. She’s not your typical grandma, and he only wants her around if she’ll bake cookies and offer hugs freely. But alas, she has zero culinary skills and would much rather dish out zingers than physical affection. I suppose I should also mention the tension between the boys’ parents, but I’d really prefer to focus my review pretty much exclusively on the grandma stuff. The title “Minari” refers to a wort plant native to East Asia, but if I had been in charge of naming this movie, I would have christened it “Mountain Water,” which is what the soda-guzzling grandma calls her beloved Mountain Dew. And that’s very important information, because the most memorable scene involves a new way of, shall we say, “doing the Dew.”

Minari (CREDIT: A24)

The grandson in question is David Yi, who is just about the most adorable cinematic scamp I’ve seen in ages. He’s played by a lovely young fellow named Alan Kim, who gives the kind of performance that makes you go, “This kid knows how to be a kid.” David’s grandmother is Soon-ja, who has an undeniable touch of the devil inside her. But it’s the most hilarious version of hellfire, so while she certainly drives her family batty, it’s pretty much impossible for those around her not to be infected by her joie de vivre. She’s played by Youn Yuh-jung, a veteran Korean actor making her American debut and giving a performance as fresh as any I’ve seen in recent memory.

I suppose it would be critical malpractice if I didn’t also acknowledge Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri as David’s parents Jacob and Monica, as well as Noel Kate Cho as his older sister Anne. Jacob really, truly believes with every fiber of his being that he can build a decent future for his family from the ground up on their new private farm in a little plot of land in Arkansas. But the economy isn’t designed to favor people like him. And his insistence on this venture puts a lot of strain between him and Monica, which is painful to see, especially when contrasted with their more tender moments. Which leads me to wonder: wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just ignore capitalist responsibilities and focus entirely on family fun? I have to imagine that Jacob would be happier if he took some inspiration from his boy and just decided that he didn’t care about the American Dream. Better yet, it would be brilliant if society as a whole decided to reformulate the American Dream as a desire to just spend as much time as possible being goofy with our families. Minari certainly touches me the most when it follows that dictum.

Minari is Recommended If You Like: Cute kids, Saucy Betty White types, Examining the Bible Belt with a sense of wide-eyed curiosity

Grade: 4 out of 5 Mountain Dews