September 19, 2009

Holy Daddy: Reincarnation Puts Juvenile Delinquent Back on Track

The time has come to designate a new sub-genre in Korean cinema: the comedic weepie. Kwon Seong-gook's Holy Daddy will serve as our shining example. How does it qualify and quantify? That's easy. A lifeless stretch of exposition establishes the comic situation. A convict (Lim Ha-ryong) who dies the day before his release from prison is reborn as an ingratiatng groupie (Ha Dong-hoon) out to bond with his lawbreaking son (pop star Lee Min-woo) and thereby curb his crime-ridden ways. Exactly how this particular soul has come back mid-life instead of as a newborn isn't quite clear. Perhaps getting a soul is simply another part of puberty for Korean men, like body hair and a deeper voice. Regardless Ha's performance as the middle-aged man in the adolescent body is so sweetly silly that you forgive the improbability that's preceded. As for the weepie part, that's even easier. Who wouldn't cry if he found out his new best friend was doling out posthumous parental advice before returning to the other side? A subplot involving an angel (Kim Sang Jung) and his daughter the nurse is really the same story in miniature, intended to make you cry twice as much. Oh Daddy! Don't leave me! Stay and be my lover!

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