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Here is one instance where not consulting the production notes hurt. Had I know that a film about a 19th Century samurai (Ryô Nishikido) inexplicably materializing on the streets of Tokyo would end with Japan’s answer to The Betty Crocker Bake-Off, I probably never would have walked in. While this manga-based throwback to live-action Disney in the ‘70’s packs more low-tech charm than most of the effects-driven fantasy slop American studios are currently churning out, it’s still a comic book by any other name.

With their initial assumption that he’s some sort of costumed supermarket promotion proved wrong, a divorcee (Rie Tomosaka) and her young son (Fuku Suzuki) decide to take in the otherworldly stray. Instead of finding the gag potential in the feudal warrior’s technological acclimation process or the satiric thrust behind an ancient soldier confronting modern day street combatants (or even better, being deployed to Iraq), writer/director, Yoshihiro Nakamura, sets his sites on cute.

Parents in search of something to both entertain and challenge their pre-teen kids could do a lot worse than this rehash of My Favorite Martian (the Ray Walston version, please) and that moth-eaten puppet E.T. For moms and dads craving a knowing and affectionate nod to ‘50’s sci-fi that would satisfy the entire family, A Boy and his Samurai once again raises the burning question, WWJDD? What would Joe Dante do?

A Boy and His Samurai screens tonight at 7:00 p.m. as part of the San Diego Asian Film Festival. Click for more information.

Reader Rating: One Star

Running Time: 110

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