Warning: contains cheese, sugar; lacks nudity

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Warning: contains cheese, sugar; lacks nudity


Doo-re (Joo Ji-hoon), Sang-in (Kim Tae-woo) and Mo-rae (Shin Min-a) are tangled in a love triangle in “The Naked Kitchen.” [HanCinema]

“The Naked Kitchen” is confused about what it wants to be. From the cover of the DVD, it looks like a cheesy culinary romantic comedy, complete with simpering stars. But from its synopsis, it sounds like a racy love triangle with a wanton wife at the center.

The identity crisis continues through the duration of the film, most apparently in its female star, Shin Min-a, as Mo-rae, the aforementioned unfaithful spouse.

Upon receiving a copy of the DVD, a co-worker passing my desk said, “Oh, Shin Min-a, she’s so cute.” Therein lies the problem. Shin is utterly unconvincing in her role as a cheater. Are we honestly supposed to believe that the prancing, parasol-peddling Mo-rae would actually cuckold her husband, Sang-in? And rather than making the situation more believable, the film’s ensuing character development - that Mo-rae was a virgin before marriage and that Sang-in is her enduring childhood love - makes her actions even more preposterous.

Mo-rae’s innocent act just gets annoying after a while, at which point the viewer is forced to ask whether she’s so wide-eyed because she’s actually pure of heart or just a simpleton. The reaction from me and my roommate from the couch? “I just want to punch her in the face.”

Oh, and don’t be fooled by the film’s title: There is very, very little nudity in this film. It’s a shame, too, because Mo-rae’s saving grace seems to be her great pair of gams. “Naked” is saved from being an all-out lie with a shot of Joo Ji-hoon, who is the film’s bright spot - for more reasons than his cute tush.

Joo is Doo-re, the young, hunky bad boy of the film, who has come to live with aspiring chef Sang-in and Mo-rae while he teaches the former a thing or two in the kitchen. Unlike Shin, Joo is a natural choice for his role - the actor was nabbed in April for drug trafficking and is reportedly “not sorry,” according to fan blogs.

And just where is this movie meant to be set? The Naked Kitchen tries desperately to maintain the “sexiness” of big-city Seoul while getting incongruously pastoral with a huge house and open fields.

At the very least the film does offer some unlikely comic relief in the form of its poor subtitles. Generally comprehensible, they do include a garbled line or two along the lines of “Another throwing suicide bomb.”

The Naked Kitchen

Romantic comedy

Korean with English subtitles

102 min.

By Hannah Bae [hannahbae@gmail.com]
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