January 31, 2015

Mr. Idol: K-Pop K-Good

How you react to Ra Hee-chan's Mr. Idol will be determined entirely by how you feel about K-pop. For those ready to hear the same sweet sounds of a cotton candy ballad ("Summer Dream") sung over and over to the same synchronized dance moves, great pleasure awaits. For those enervated by prefab harmonizing and mushy lyrics, there's torture ahead. Personally, I couldn't have been happier.

The up-and-coming boy band busting moves and breaking hearts is Mr. Children, a strangely-named quartet that's been reunited (and recast) in the aftermath of their lead singer's lovelorn suicide. The new front man (played by Ji Hyun-woo of the band The Nuts) is more indie grunge than girl-inducing screams but Mr. Children's cougar-manager (Park Yeh-jin) sees potential in him, although you'd never guess that from her poker face.

To get her dormant heartthrob and his dancing, rapping band mates where they need to be, the stone-faced overlord puts a demanding training process in place: These boys will need to run, box and master the handstand if they're going to emerge as competitive song stylists in their own right. She's very serious about this last part. Handstands are not an extra, they're a staple! She's also serious about her drinking, which might explain why she's maxed out her credit cards and forgotten to play the electric bill. Whatever the cause, when the lights go out mid-practice one night, she tells her underlings: "Don't just look at the stars. Be one!" Anyone else sense that this woman has a lyric-writing career ahead of her?

And she needn't confine herself to writing songs for Mr. Children either. She could easily craft a solo career for backup dancer Ji-oh (Jay Park) whose Korean-American heritage could make him a trans-Pacific sensation.

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