The only way the title of Jian Liu’s animated Have a Nice Day could be more ironic would be if it were called Happy People Doing Happy Things. It’s apt that Liu begins the film with the opening paragraph of Tolstoy’s Resurrection, as Have a Nice Day certainly trades in the melodramatic miserabilism which the Tolstoy novel is famous for, while evoking bare-bones film noir like Edgar Ulmer’s Detour. In a crumbling industrial town in Southern China, young Xiao Zhang (Zhu Changlong) steals a bag of a million yuan from crime boss Uncle Liu (Yang Siming) to pay to fix Xiao’s never-seen girlfriend’s botched plastic surgery.
Things go about as well for they go for anyone who steals money from a crime boss, especially when word about the robbery spreads. Unfortunately, the very talky Have a Nice Day is never as compelling as it could be due to the limited animation. Most of the scenes are just cuts between the same shots of the characters, with nothing moving or changing except their mouths; that it’s likely a function of budget makes it no less distracting. It’s worth noting that a snippet of Trump’s acceptance speech is heard on the radio. Even beyond China, it’s a hard day on the planet in Have a Nice Day.
Opens Friday at the 4-Star Theatre and the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission.