December 18, 2008

Romance Papa: A Hit in 1960, A Relic Today

The title character of Romance Papa is what's commonly referred to as a sentimental old fool. He's also a bit of a windbag with artistic delusions and a braggart dumb enough to challenge his 19-year-old son to a wrestling match. But because he's played by the charismatic Kim Seung-ho, you understand why his family loves him and why one young co-worker aspires to be his drinking buddy. He's what you'd call a lovable shmuck. You still want to see him taken down a peg now and again but your heart goes out to him when later in the movie, he loses his middle management job at an insurance company. Even bores need someplace to work, especially ones who, at 52, can't compete in a youth-driven marketplace. That woeful turn of events is when producer-director Shin Sang-ok's two-hour-plus drama finally starts to get interesting. It's a little late, granted, but there's still time enough for a well-earned weepy ending that has papa's children showing respect by retrieving papa's pawned watch before singing "Happy Birthday" in English. Shin's wife, movie siren Choi Eun-hie who plays the eldest daughter, does more with a simple bow to her parents than Shin does the entire drippy drama.

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