November 9, 2014

Sorry, Thanks: Four Flicks For You and Your Four-Legged Friends

For Sorry, Thanks, an omnibus of four shorts about twice as many house pets, I've chosen to focus on the performances of the animals, not their human co-stars. First up: Ha Neul-i, the yellow lab in Song Il-gon's "I'm Sorry, Thank You." Suddenly orphaned by an elderly owner who dies of a stroke, this dog doesn't grieve. He pulls some blankets over the corpse. His inability to bark effectively means a passing real estate agent never learns there's a dead man inside. A 10-year-old with possibly weight issues, this dog has been around so long, he seems to convey a "been there, done that" attitude in all his scenes. His eventual adoption feels strictly sentimental. Not earned!

The title character in "Jju-jju" (some kind of Corgi, perhaps?) might not be Hollywood pedigree but he's the strongest performer in the pack. His near-death strangulation by some homeless thugs looks convincing without being histrionic. Plus he's incredibly charismatic whether he's fetching a ball or begging for pre-packaged pastry. Unlike the senior lab, this one's got range: He plays sleepy, sick, loyal and perky effectively. If he improves his focus, he could become Korean cinema's go-to super-canine. You can imagine director Oh Jeom-gyoon wanting to work with him again. Or at least wanting to take him home!

What follows in Park Heung-sik's "My Younger Sister" is one of the most thankless movie roles a dog has ever had: This mini-pic concerns a young girl who pretends her puppy is her sibling so most of the time, a very young actress is playing the role of an adorable puppy! White, fluffy, and radiating happiness, the actual dog might've captured our hearts if he'd been given more screen time. But can he complain when he sees Lim Soon-rye's "A Cat's Kiss," where all the canines are background (one barks off-screen; another's seen behind a fence). As to the cats, there's no breakout performances. There's the one wearing a protective cone (nice blinking), the one who gets pelted (good cowering) and three abandoned kittens (is there anything cuter?!). None of them come across as trained. This is strictly amateur hour for pet performing.

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