Imagine this scene: "Zoo!" a Caucasian teacher slyly declares in front of a class of Korean students. "Jew!" the class confidently affirms in unison. Sound familiar? A scene like this probably takes place at hundreds of private institutions around the nation where the struggle to learn English is a struggle to avoid comedy.
Why avoid comedy when you can make one instead? For those tired of crying about it, the new film "Please Teach Me English
" opening next Wednesday offers a chance to laugh about it. Equipped with a clever script and an appealing cast, the film digs into a goldmine of language confusion to excavate a lot of laughter.
In the film, Jang Hyuk
plays self-presumed lady-killer shoe salesman Mun-su, who can't believe how cool English is and how lame Korean is when it comes to snagging local babes. Of course, he has a more personal reason to learn English: His sister, who was adopted into an American family, wants to return to meet her birth family.
Mun-su's teacher is a shapely sheila from down under named Cathy with perfect pronunciation and a peeping cleavage. Little does she know how her honeyed words and tanned breasts are conspiring to create the ultimate ethno-linguistic-sexual fantasy for Korean lads like Mun-su.
Mun-su goes hot for teacher and loses sight of the fact that dorky public servant Young-ju sitting next to him is played by cosmetics model Lee Na-young
, trying to hide her loveliness behind her oversized glasses without much success. She was elected to learn English after a humiliating encounter with a foreigner at the district office.
Naturally, the classroom procedures are soon complicated by love. Young-ju develops a crush on Mun-su, Mun-su puts the moves on Cathy, and Cathy pines away for a pizza deliveryman with a sexy Chungcheong Province accent. So the film isn't exactly high realism, but it shows off delightful absurdity, capped off with computer graphics and dream sequences that add a modern, youthful touch.
The comic force at the core of "Teach Me English", however, is what British poet Alexander Pope called the lowest form of humor: wit. The film boasts an impressively versatile wit that weaves expertly through both English and Korean.
An incident at a bar frequented by foreigners typifies the spirit of the film. "How should I address you?" a sleazy oaf hits on Young-ju in mellifluous English. "Address? Guro-dong", she responds innocently. "Hello, Gu Ro-dong. What a beautiful name", he replies seductively.
When the film is at its wit's end, it releases the funny bone and reaches for the heart, managing to slip in a message about the danger of excluding others in the age of globalization even as it embraces the beauty of the Korean language.
The happy-go-lucky acting plays a big part in livening up the sharp script. Angela Kelly hams it up in goofy Korean while Jang Hyuk exudes an amiable pseudo-cool. Lee Na-young
has never been funnier, cuter or more charming.
"Please Teach Me English
" is a lot smarter and sweeter than your typical Korean comedy. To take a break from learning English on a Saturday afternoon, it certainly beats a visit to the Jew.
By Kim Jin