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'Rivals' Is Funny With Clumsy Story

2007/03/29 | 560 views | Permalink | Source

By Kim Tae-jong
Staff Reporter

You might think that the new comedy "Small Town Rivals" was made by those who ought to know the ingredients of a good comedy.

In his new film, director Jang Gyoo-seong, who has shown talent in such previous hit comedies as "My Teacher, Mr. Kim" (2003) and "Lovely Rivals" (2004), teams up with veteran actors Cha Seung-won and Yoo Hae-jin _ well known for their comic performances in the past.

Cha and Yu don't deliver anything especially new _ they are quite comfortable in such roles with Cha playing a corruptive teacher in "My Teacher, Mr. Kim" and Yoo a talkative gambler in "Tazza: High Roller" ("Tazza: The High Rollers" - 2006). But the two combined to produce satisfying results, eliciting bursts of laughter from audiences in this new film _ a story about rivalry and friendship between two old friends.

But the director may have tried too hard to be smart and ambitious in this movie. He unsuccessfully tries to weave heavy issues, such as politics, into the comic storyline _ a formula that falls flat. It only adds unnecessary sequences and disturbs the storyline.

In the film, Cho Chun-sam (played by Cha) and Noh Dae-gyu (by Yoo Hae-jin) are both in their late 30s, old time friends from the same elementary school in a small town. The friends reunite after 20 years, but find they have traveled very different paths in life.

Back in elementary school, Cho was always a class leader while Noh played second fiddle. But now Cho is a poor farmer and serves as a village headman, a position usually reserved for an old man. Noh is the newly elected county headman.

As an old friend, Cho asks Noh many favors. Favors including repairing a village road and investing money for the development of the village. But when his favors are turned down he feels ignored and Cho decides to turn his back on his old friend.

Noh wants to build a radioactive waste disposal facility in his county, but this meets strong opposition from the public, especially from his friend Cho. He simply doesn't like the plan as Noh suggests it.

Cho even leads demonstrations against the idea, and the two old friends become worst enemies.

The two actors deliver impeccable performances of the slapstick variety in the wacky situations they act in. And Cho deserves a standing ovation for his silly tactics in opposing his friend's idea to build a radioactive waste facility.

But the funny moments often sidetrack from the storyline and do not successfully intermingle with the heavy sarcasm placed on political issues. The story should have been better thought out for such an attempt.

Many clumsy flashback scenes also disturb the development of the story and the last 20 minutes are packed to produce a moving ending, which could be a bit painful for some.

Three stars

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