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Bunt


Choi Woo-Hyuk and Yoon Chan in Bunt.
Year: 2007  
Director: Park Gyu-Tae  
Producer: Chul-Hyun, Oh Syun-Hyeon  
  Writer: Choi Seok-Hwan, Park Gyu-Tae, Wang Shu-Fen (original book)
  Cast: Jung Jin-Young, Choi Woo-Hyuk, Yoon Chan, Kwon Oh-Joong, Shin Jung-Geun
  The Skinny: A sweet, often hilarious tale of one youngster's bid to play baseball in order to secure a position as the team's waterboy. Although the film is a bit predictable, particularly in terms of its climax, an overall comic tone and likeable performances from the film's major players make Bunt a cinematic home run for audiences of all ages.
Review by Calvin McMillin:      Despite the fact that he's ridiculed constantly by his peers and even told by his teachers to stay home on exam days so as to not lower the overall class grade, eleven-year old Dong-Ku (Choi Woo-Hyuk) is completely oblivious to it all and simply enjoys coming to school each and every day. But his personal motivation isn't quite what one might expect. It's not the extracurricular activities, the daily social interaction with children his own age, or (gasp!) actual learning that propels him to school every morning. No, Dong-Ku's singular reason for attending school is a bit out of the ordinary - he simply loves being the class waterboy, taking a the school-approved kettle around and filling the cups of his classmates during lunch. Dong-Ku, it seems, is pretty easy to please.
    Unfortunately, Dong-Ku's whole world comes crashing down when a practical joke quickly lands him in proverbial hot water with school authorities, raising the distinct possibility of expulsion. As it turns out, Dong-Ku is mentally-challenged, and his teachers insist that he attend a special school, a move his loving father, Jin-Gyu (Jung Jin-Young), simply can't afford. Jin-Gyu has got his own problems. His wife fell ill and eventually died, leaving him to raise a child with special needs all alone. Even worse, in order to pay the hospital bills, he had no choice but to sell his house (which also doubles as a restaurant). On the bright side, the man who bought the house promised Jin-Gyu the chance to purchase the rights back at a later date. Sadly, the old man becomes deathly ill, and his son is eager to sell off the property despite the promise his father made to Jin-Gyu. Despondent at the thought of losing the only home Dong-Ku has ever known, Jin-Gyu vows to find a way to save the house, even if it kills him - literally.
     Meanwhile, Dong-Ku is horrified to learn that the school has gotten rid of all the in-class kettles, replacing them with water purifiers, thus eliminating Dong-Ku's sole reason for attending school. However, while daydreaming in class, a solution presents itself, as he spies a waterboy carrying a kettle to his teammates on the baseball field. There, we are introduced to the comically long-suffering Coach Kwon (a very amusing Kwon Oh-Joong), whose own job is in jeopardy. His team's on a losing streak, parents are calling for his head, and the team might be disbanded if they don't win the next game. And with only eight players left, the coach isn't even going to be able to field a team. Upon meeting Dong-Ku, the coach initially sees him as a godsend, eager to sign him up for the team. Dong-Ku agrees, but only if that means he can serve as the team's waterboy. No problem, says Coach Kwon. A deal is struck, and all seems well. One problem: Dong-Ku knows nothing about baseball. Luckily for him, his classmate Joon-Tae (Yoon Chan) decides to take him under his wing and teach him the basics of baseball. Realizing that Dong-Ku is unlikely to ever be an ace batter, Joon-Tae teaches him the only move the young boy seems capable of executing: a bunt. But even if he can make contact with the ball in practice, will Dong-Ku actually be able to pull it off on his own during the big game? If you don't know the answer to that question, you haven't seen many movies.
     Based on the novel by Wang Shu-Fen and sharing a more than passing resemblance to the Adam Sandler comedy, The Waterboy, Park Gyu-Tae's 2007 film is ultimately a sweet, well-told tale that I found impossible to dislike. Although Bunt flirts with tearjerker status (there is some question as to the status of Jin-Gyu's health), it seems to be more focused on finding the joy in life, rather than dwelling on the negative. That's not to say that the film doesn't have its emotional moments or that it takes its subject matter too lightly. If that was the case, Bunt wouldn't work at all. There's high drama, but the filmmakers seem more interested in finding the humorous side of life, as is true of many people in less than ideal circumstances.
     Structurally, Bunt is all about character motivation. Dong-Ku wants to continue being a waterboy, Jin-Gyu wants to provide a home for his son, Coach Kwon wants to keep his job, and even Joon-Tae has his own reasons for helping Dong-Ku. The way in which all these side stories intersect might be predictable, maybe even a little schmaltzy by the time we reach the climax, but the manner in which director Park Gyu-Tae is able to create and assemble all these pieces works incredibly well. The ending may be "pure Hollywood," but considering all the pieces of the puzzle the film gives you, not to mention the enormous measure of good will it earns with each passing minute, could it really have ended any other way? Surprisingly, yes, it could have.
     From the looks of the alternate ending (sans English subtitles) featured on the 2-disc limited edition DVD, it seems like the filmmakers were faced with a crucial choice: should Bunt have a fairytale ending or not? Although it might seem strange to mention an ending not in the finished theatrical cut, I think it's notable to mention that both are executed brilliantly. The unused ending is less of an obvious crowd pleaser, but its alternate footage features little nuances and humorous touches that make it no less effective than the final product.
     Ultimately, the film hinges on the father-son dynamic, as portrayed by Jung Jin-Young and Choi Woo-Hyuk. Jung is entirely believable as the honest working-class guy just trying to make a decent living for his son, and Choi is similarly credible in portraying the sweet, seemingly perpetually happy young waterboy. Their on-screen relationship is a key factor in whether or not the film succeeds and neither disappoint. Kwon Oh-Joong is also a welcome presence, as his much-beleaguered Coach Kwon is the source of much comic relief, particularly in his scenes with little Choi Woo-Hyuk. Full of plenty of hilarious moments as well as the occasional, genuinely poignant scene, Bunt is a feel-good underdog story that is likely to win over audiences both young and old. (Calvin McMillin, 2007)
Availability: DVD (KOREA)
Region 3 NTSC
KD Media
2-Disc Limited Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Various Extras including Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Ending, Trailers
   
   
 
 
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