[DVD REVIEWS]The best laughs arrive unexpectedlyA change of pace this week. DVDs aren't just about serious arthouse films. Indeed, there's always room for comedy.
BEST IN SHOW (2000)
Directed by Christopher Guest. Starring Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Michael McKean and Guest.
Written by Guest ("This Is Spinal Tap," 1984) and Levy ("SCTV"), this is yet another entry in the "mockumentary" film genre. The two teamed up before to write "Waiting for Guffman," the story of a small-town theater company with big dreams.
"Best in Show" is also, in many ways, about small people with big dreams. But here Guest and Levy turn their barbs at that evil of evils, the dog show. This is the tale of a man and his dog -- actually five men, four women and five dogs -- vying for the top prize, the "Best in Show," at a show in Philadelphia.
Cookie and Gerald Fleck (O'Hara and Levy) are a good-natured couple from Florida, entering their star corgi. Gerald is shy. His wife is devoted, but apparently she has a promiscuous past that keeps popping up at the most inopportune times.
Meg and Hamilton (Posey and Michael Hitchcock) are a yuppie couple who project their insecurities into their poor weimaraner. Also featured are a gay couple and their shih tzu, a hillbilly and his bloodhound, and a rich socialite and her poodle.
Given the loose nature of the mockumentary and the rich talent of the cast, much of the humor is improvised. Among the extras is a wealth of outtakes, helped in part by the unpredictable nature of the pets.
MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER (Jopok Manura, 2001)
Directed by Jo Jin-gyu. Starring Shim Eun-gyeong and Park Sang-myeon.
Korea's second-biggest film of 2001, "My Wife Is a Gangster" is typical of the strengths and weaknesses of the local movie industry right now.
The story itself is fun -- Eun-jin (Shim) is a young gangster boss. But when she is reunited with her long-lost sister (who is dying of some unspecified disease that makes her weak and weepy, but lets her remain attractive), Eun-jin will do anything to make her happy, even get married.
But having grown up in the criminal world, Eun-jin isn't very feminine, and has no idea how to attract a man. When she gets married to Kang Su-il (Park), she is content to ignore him, at least until her sister starts talking about kids. On top of that, Eun-jin has to deal with a rival gang and incompetent underlings.
The story is strong, but very uneven. Some fight scenes are like Hong Kong-lite, with wires and fancy choreography; others are low-budget and goofy. Eun-jin was raised among thugs, yet has no clue about sex. And the film could have used more time in the editing room.
The film comes in a two-DVD set, but most extras are just interviews and are underwhelming.
In short, it could have been a very good film, and has laugh-out-loud jokes, but too many undeveloped ideas kept it from reaching its potential.
by Mark Russell