[DVD review]Sappy fails to mix with slapstick

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[DVD review]Sappy fails to mix with slapstick

“Underground Rendez-vous” is an amusing comedy with a lot of one-liners combined with some intriguing historical elements.

Starring Korea’s No. 1 comedy actor Im Chang-jung, it has the potential to fill the theater with laughter, but unfortunately, the film turns out to be a lot of wasted potential.

The story starts with a flashback to June 25, 1950, when the Korean War began. The innocent residents of Gangwon Province volunteer to help South Korean soldiers build a border and end up being separated from friends and families who end up in the North.

Thirty years later, the border still stands right in the middle of the Korean Peninsula. Young-tae (Im Chang-jung), an ambitious young man from a small island, dreams of becoming a teacher. On his way to Seoul to pursue his studies, he finds himself in a town called Chung-sol in Gangwon Province.

The townspeople mistake Young-tae for their newly assigned elementary school teacher. Although the job isn’t meant for him, he nevertheless starts teaching there.

Ryu Seung-beom’s cameo role is hilarious. As the teacher rightfully assigned to the post in Chung-sol, he’s held up when he comes across a land mine while on the toilet. He sits in the same spot for three months, throwing rocks at birds flying overhead and roasting food on a barbecue.

Up until this point, the movie is quite interesting, albeit more like a standard Korean comedy in which the humor is derived from all kinds of boisterous antics. It’s not funny.

But then Young-tae realizes that there is something weird about the town ? the townspeople have been digging a tunnel to reach their families and friends in the North. From here, the film gets a little warm and fuzzy.

A secret rendezvous sounds about right, but it’s more sad than anything. The townspeople’s desire to reunite with family members separated from them by the Korean War may appeal to viewers’ emotions and elicit a few tears.

The themes of comedy and familial love, however, do not meld together to create something bigger. Underground Rendez-vous fails to bring these great elements together, and therefore ends up as a lukewarm, so-so production.

Some said that the film had the flavor of the British TV program “Mr. Bean” with its dorky principal character perfectly played by comic actor Im. But despite great actors and fine performances, it’s disappointing that Underground Rendez-vous did not turn out to be a better film.

Underground Rendez-vous (Mannam-eui Gwangjang)

Directed by Kim Jong-jin

Starring: Im Chang-jung, Park Jin-hee

Running Time: 107 min.

Subtitles: English

Genre: Comedy

By Susan Yoon Contributing Writer [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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