Korean comedy “Dancing Queen” has already emerged as one of the year’s biggest hits, following popular film and television actress Uhm Jung Hwa (“Seducing Mr. Perfect”) as a housewife who gets the chance to relive her dreams of becoming a singer. The film was written and directed by Lee Seok Hoon (“2 Faces of My Girlfriend”), who spices up the story with other genre elements, a witty but grounded script and plenty of bouncy music. Starring opposite Uhm Jung Hwa is acclaimed actor Hwang Jung Min, who recently impressed in “Moby Dick” and Ryoo Seung Wan’s superb “The Unjust”.
Uhm Jung Hwa plays Jung Hwa, a housewife and mother who has spent most of her life supporting her husband Jung Min (Hwang Jung Min) through law school. A former nightclub singer and dancer, she still harbours dreams of making it big, and is given the chance when her audition for a television talent show is spotted by an agent, who offers her a place in a girl band called ‘Dancing Queens’. At the same time, Jung Min’s career suddenly takes off after he inadvertently saves a man from being hit by a train, and he ends up as one of the leading candidates in the mayoral election. Of course, having a sexy dressing singer for a wife doesn’t really fit with being a politician, so Jung Hwa is forced to keep her new life a secret from him and her family.
It’s easy to see why “Dancing Queen” proved so popular at the Korean box office, as it’s a film which successfully manages to mix together a variety of genres in entertaining and smile-inducing fashion. Similar in feel to “200 Pounds Beauty” and recent blockbuster “Sunny”, the film balances comedy, romance, underdog drama and even political satire, enough so to give it far wider appeal than its chick flick sounding premise might suggest. Lee Seok Hoon does a great job as both writer and director, with a script that never patronises the audience and manages to come up with a feeling of genuine heart and spirit. The film is certainly a lot of fun throughout, and though predictable there’s a lot going on and plenty to hold the interest.
The film is in its own way quite clever, and the political satire angle both adds a few laughs and a welcome touch of social commentary, helping to give it a real sense of currency. This blends comfortably with some more basic humour, Lee packing in slapstick and creative farce style comedic set pieces along the way as Jung Hwa amusingly tries to keep her double life hidden. The musical side similarly adds liveliness, with plenty of pop tunes and flashy stage numbers, and the film is energetic and colourful.
This aside, the main reason why “Dancing Queen” works so well is its character driven approach, Lee wisely devoting a fair amount of effort to making Jung Hwa a likeable, sympathetic, and most importantly, believable protagonist. Uhm Jung Hwa was a perfect choice for the role and is on fine form, showing determination and strength with just the right amount of ditziness. Hwang Jung Min also impresses, and the film is all the better for giving nearly as much respect and focus to his career and problems. Their relationship is unusually fleshed out and convincing for this type of film, and the story is very much about two people trying to fulfil their dreams, as well as trying to make their marriage and lives together work. Although things unsurprisingly build to an over the top set piece finale, Lee never loses sight of this, and the film is actually quite moving and rewarding in its wrap up.
There’s really a great deal to like about “Dancing Queen”, and though not offering anything new, it’s the very definition of a feel good crowd-pleaser. Well made and benefitting from a strong central pairing in Uhm Jung Hwa and Hwang Jung Min, it’s a couple of hours of unpretentious and amiable enjoyment, proving again that no-one makes genre-blending films like this quite as well as Korea.
Seok-hoon Lee (director) / Seok-hoon Lee (screenplay)
CAST: Jeong-hwa Eom … Jeong-hwa
Jeong-min Hwang … Jeong-min