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Sad Movie

A happier moment from Sad Movie.
Year: 2005  
Director: Kwon Jong-Gwan  
  Cast: Jung Woo-Sung, Im Su-Jung, Cha Tae-Hyun, Yeom Jung-Ah, Shin Min-Ah, Son Tae-Yung, Lee Ki-Woo
  The Skinny: Talk about truth in advertisement. This mostly entertaining, star-packed film lives up to its title, although not necessarily in the way one might expect. Rather than deliver a straightforward melodrama, director Kwon Jong-Gwan instead delivers a genuinely funny romantic comedy, only to pull the rug out from under the audience in a brutally depressing final act. Sure, it bucks convention, but to what purpose?
Review by Calvin McMillin:      Imagine a film in which likeable characters encounter life-altering problems, struggle to overcome them, and then seem to actually make some headway, only to have all their hopes eventually dashed in a swift and brutal fashion. If you can do that, you'll have some inkling of what Sad Movie is all about. Director Kwon Jong-Gwon (S Diary) assembled a star-studded cast for this ensemble piece that more than lives up to its melancholic title. Despite being upfront about its content, Sad Movie isn't a melodrama in the conventional sense. In fact, the majority of the film plays out as a cute, consistently funny romantic comedy, a fact that only amplifies the sense of betrayal and/or shock many viewers will feel by story's end.
     Rather than focus on one driving plotline, the film is a collection of four stories that all intersect at some point, although they remain basically unrelated. First off, there's Jin-Woo (Jung Woo-Sung of A Moment to Remember), a handsome, noble, but lunkheaded firefighter dating a sign language interpreter named Su-Jung (Im Su-Jung of A Tale of Two Sisters). It looks like the two are ready to take the next big step in their relationship, but Jin-Woo's unwillingness to give up his dangerous profession and his occasional obliviousness to Su-Jung's needs keeps derailing any plans for wedding bells between the two.
     Su-Jung lives with her sister, the cheerful Su-Eun (Shin Min-Ah of A Bittersweet Life). Although she provides the occasional moral support for her sister and "brother-in-law," Su-Eun has problems of her own. While working at a theme park as a Raggedy Ann-like Snow White, she falls in love with a portrait painter named Sang-Gyu (Lee Ki-Woo). The only problem is that Su-Eun is a deaf mute with a scar on the side of her cheek, facts which prevents her from approaching Sang-Gyu without wearing her oversized mask and costume. With the help of her ridiculously cute co-workers, the Seven Dwarves, Su-Eun hopes to overcome her shyness and connect with the handsome artist.
     Then there's Ju-Yung (Yeom Jung-Ah), a working mother whose commitment to her job causes a rift between her and her lonely son Hui-Chan (Yeo Jin-Goo). Things begin to change when Ju-Yung is caught in a car accident and sent to the hospital. While his mother is laid up in a hospital bed, Hui-Chan stumbles upon his mother's diaries and begins to learn the truth about his conception, birth, and early childhood. Soon, he begins to bond with his mother, just as she discovers that she's suffering from cancer.
     Along the way, Hui-Chan crosses paths with Ha-Seok (Cha Tae-Hyun of My Sassy Girl), an unemployed shlub who makes extra money as a human punching bag for a local boxer. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Suk-Hyun (Son Tae-Yung) is sick of her dead-end job as a cashier and when Ha-Seok's credit card is declined at her place of employment, she realizes she's tired of waiting for her boyfriend to grow up and promptly dumps him. Ha-Seok begs her to give him a three month grace period and heads off seeking steady employment. After a chance encounter with a woman breaking up with her boyfriend, Ha-Seok hatches a scheme to start a "Separation Agency" that will break up relationships when one party is too scared to do it face-to-face. His wild idea quickly turns into a lucrative business, giving Ha-Seok hope that he'll finally win his girlfriend back.
     At face value, Sad Movie is a collection of tried-and-true formulas. There's the couple with commitment issues, the shy girl caught up in a "Meet Cute" scenario with the boy of her dreams, the mother-son terminal illness tearjerker, and the gimmicky, high concept romantic comedy all on display in Sad Movie. While it's arguable that each story could stand on its own, it's perhaps wise that the filmmakers decided to intercut among the four. Not only does the decision make for a more involving film, but it also ensures that each storyline doesn't wear out its welcome.
     Despite what the title suggests, Sad Movie is a consistently funny film. It has all the makings of a light, fluffy romantic comedy, but to its credit, it's a thoroughly enjoyable one. That's not to say that the film isn't full of emotion (as is the case with the mother-son cancer storyline), but much of Sad Movie is anything but sad or depressing. Ha-Seok's unflappable dedication to his new job, Hui-Chan's kiddy antics, Su-Eun's internal snarky commentary, and Jin-Woo's clueless behavior all provide ample chuckles throughout the picture. What stands out most about the film is how intensely likeable the all-star cast is, a quality that allows the viewer to immediately get involved in the story and hope things will work out for the best.
     And that's the trick being played on the audience in Sad Movie. After more than an hour of warming the heart and tickling the funny bone of its audience, Sad Movie takes a melodramatic turn for the worse. As the saying goes around, IT ALL GOES TO HELL! Everything that can go wrong does go wrong for our heroes in brutally swift succession. Considering all the goodwill the film has accrued up until that point, when all the gloom and doom is handed out, it feels like a kick to the chest. Although there were some tears shed by the audience, this reviewer was dry-eyed, mainly out of shock, as the film proceeded to end on perhaps the lowest note possible.
     To be fair to the filmmakers, in addition to the title, the storylines themselves do actually give audiences a clue as to what will transpire. A man unwilling to give up his dangerous job, a mother afflicted with cancer, a girl too shy to show her face to the boy she has a crush on, and a guy trying to win back his girlfriend who dumped him all seem like recipes for disaster in varying degrees. But still, with the filmmakers unceremoniously pulling the rug out from under the viewer after all that positive build-up, the ending ultimately begs the question, "Why?" Just to be different?
     In some ways, Sad Movie can be read as a send-up of the various clichés that typify melodramas and romantic comedies. By dashing the audience's expectations, perhaps the filmmakers want to emphasize that in real life, there are no guarantees for a happy ending. While such genre-tweaking innovation can be admired, the execution of the ending seems a bit overblown. Truthfully, three of the endings aren't too devastating, but the final one, the one that serves as Sad Movie's capper, is a little too over the top, as if the filmmakers were purposely trying to elicit tears. That's not to say that Sad Movie should have had a gloriously happy ending. Such a climax would have felt fake to be sure, but something more bittersweet, and ending with a little more light in the darkness might have felt slightly more satisfying.
     But having said all that, the fact remains that Sad Movie is an entertaining ride up until the quadruple sad ending. Fans of My Sassy Girl will be delighted to see Cha Tae-Hyun again, as the actor nearly steals the show from his equally famous co-stars. The other actors do well with their characters with Shin Min-Ah and child actor Yeo Jin-Goo being particular standouts. On the basis of the intense likeability of the characters, the mostly humorous content, and the deft juggling of the various storylines, Sad Movie definitely merits at least one viewing. Repeat viewings, however, might be a challenge. So be forewarned: no matter how happy this movie gets, when the filmmakers say the title is Sad Movie, they aren't kidding around. (Calvin McMillin, 2005)
Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
TUBE Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable Korean and English Subtitles
Various Extras
  Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen