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Romantic Comedy Is in Good Hands With 'Mr. Handy'

2004/03/11 | Permalink | Source

By Joon Soh
Staff Reporter She's far better known as a pop singer, but as an actress Uhm Jung-hwa has quietly put together a string of intelligent films that deal with contemporary relationships. Though much lighter in style and substance than her previous works, her new romantic comedy "...Hong Banjang (Mr. Handy)" is a clever twist on the knight-in-shining-armor routine that should prove to be another winner for the dance music queen.

Uhm plays Hye-jin, a dentist who quits her position at a Seoul hospital to try to set up her own shop. Unable to afford the real estate in the capital, she finds herself settling for a modest dental clinic in a small town.

While trying to get her new business up and running, she meets Hong Tu-sik (Kim Ju-hyuk), who is affectionately known around the neighborhood as "Hong banjang", or head of the community. It's hard to see why, however, as he's crass, has no steady job to speak of and makes a living by taking on any kind of work for the price of 50,000 won a day. In every aspect, Tu-sik seems to be the complete opposite of Hye-jin and, predictably, the two immediately begin to fight and spend every moment making their supposed revulsion towards each other plain.

Despite his rough demeanor, however, Tu-sik is quite a softie. In fact, his penchant for taking on odd jobs turns out to be a way to help out the neighborhood folks. Depending on the circumstance, Tu-sik appears in the film as a butcher, deliveryman for a Chinese restaurant, clerk at the convenient store and others. The strongest and funniest scenes of the film are watching Tu-sik suddenly turn up in these different occupations _ almost like a game of "Where's Waldo?" _ all done with a hilarious nonchalance.

Through her previous films, "Kyolhon-un Michin Chisida (Marriage Is a Crazy Thing)" and "Singles", which also starred Kim, Uhm has gotten quite adept at playing the role of the strong independent woman, and her character in "Mr. Handy" is no different. Adding comical fuel to the couple's lively duels, Hye-jin fights to the teeth against being on the receiving end of Tu-sik's good deeds, but is flabbergasted every time she fails.

"Mr. Handy" is reminiscent of such odd-couple love stories like "French Kiss" and "Misulgwan Yop Tongmulwon (Art Museum By The Zoo)", but first-time director Kang Sok-bom brings enough originality and sweetness to keep the romantic comedy from feeling predictable. Supported by good acting and an intelligent script, the film keeps things light and flowing, making it a good choice for you and yours on White Day.

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