t the risk of being accused of ethnic bashing (which, by
the way, I have been accused of, natch), let me say that I find the way Korean
women talk to be a little…odd. Now mind you my personal experiences with
Koreans in real life has been minimal, and those I have met have all spoken
English as a first language and hence I have never encountered a Korean that
talks the way Korean in Korean movies talk. And yet, according to almost all
non-serious Korean movies I've seen, the women seem to adopt this babyish drawl
that gives the impression they're whining their sentences rather than talking in
a "regular" tone. Perhaps it's just a "Korean thing," but to
my Western ears the whole phenomenon is just…strange.
"Surprise," besides featuring three young women
who "whine-talks" as a matter of course, is a rather tiresome film
under the guise of a romantic comedy. When Ha-yeong's best friend Mi-ryeong
(Min-hie Kim) asks her to pick up her boyfriend at the airport and stall him
until she can convince her father to accept their union, Ha-yeong (Yu-won Lee)
hesitantly agrees. Since the father remains adamantly opposed to Jeong-woo
(Ha-kyun Shin), who is half Korean and half Hawaiian (thus making him a
"half-breed" in the father's eyes), Ha-yeong has to keep Jeong-woo
away from Mi-ryeong's house as long as possible. Can she? Will she? Or is the
better question: Will I shoot myself in the head from all the whine-talk going
Since "Surprise" is a romantic comedy, there's
really no surprise (no pun intended) that Ha-yeong and Jeong-woo will fall in
love along the way -- but only after they've antagonized each other for half of
the movie. Both Shin ("Guns
and Talks") and Lee are hopeless victims of an inane screenplay that
believes it is more clever and funny than it really is. And since everyone and
their Aunt Teresa knows how the story will progress and eventually end, what's
the point in watching? The point, dear friends, is to be entertained along the
Unfortunately I was not very entertained, and perhaps it's
just that everyone in the movie (men and women) seems to whine-talk until
I could no longer take it. Or perhaps the supposed "hilarity" taking
place onscreen as Ha-yeong attempts to keep Jeong-woo at bay just strikes me as
all very silly, mostly preposterous, and to be frank, rather stupid. At more
than one occasion the phrase "hopelessly asinine" kept coming to mind.
It's not a stretch to say that "Surprise" was probably
not intended for me. I'm sure there are 13-year olds gushing and giggling in
every theater this movie showed in. There is a twist toward the end that makes
"everything all right" -- this is a silly romantic comedy, after all
– but it's hardly worth sitting through the rest of the film to get to.
Written and directed by Jin-seon Kim (who could be a man or
a woman, since I've given up trying to predict gender on the basis of their
South Korean names long ago), "Surprise" has very little going for it.
Actress Yu-won Lee, though attractive, kept reminding me of that little girl in
the backseat who keeps leaning through the hole in the front seats to ask, over
and over again, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" What I mean to
say is, she is so grating for the first 50 minutes that her eventual
sobering as she realizes she's fallen for Jeong-woo just left a big thud. Am I
supposed to care? Well, at least she stopped whine-talking. A little, anyway.
Actually, there is one (and only one) aspect of
"Surprise" that really had me guessing throughout its running length.
That question is this: "Who the hell is Carolyn Hennesy, and what character
does she play in the film?" IMDB.com lists this mysterious Hennesy person, but no character name next to her. This is very
odd, and leaves me baffled to no end, since her name comes first in the credit
listing, which makes absolutely no sense since I'm hardpressed to remember a
Caucasian actress having appeared in the film at all.
Of course, I could pop the tape back into the deck and
watch again, this time scanning for someone who might be a "Carolyn
Hennesy." Then again, I could hit my forehead on the doorknob until it
bleeds, but that wouldn't be a good idea either.