By Lee Hyo-won
While the "American Pie" trilogy cooked up a stir in the United States, Korea had its own version of a witlessly wholesome sex comedy, "Sex is Zero" (2002). It's always hard for sequels to live up to the glory of their predecessor, but such biting reality hit "Sex Is Zero 2
" especially hard ― slapping the tasteless college story in the face over and over again.
In "Zero 2", the popular actors from the first installment reconvene and the narrative elements are tweaked here and there. Good-hearted Eun-sik (Im Chang-jung
) is a law student who, driven by his hormones, is more preoccupied with checking out miniskirt-clad legs in the library than preparing for the state exam.
Eun-sik seems doomed with bad luck, with unfortunate timing always labeling the innocent guy as a pervert. But mysterious workings of the universe give him one blessing. His longtime girlfriend is none other than the most popular girl on campus, the sweet and beautiful swimming champion Gyeong-a (Song Ji-hyo
). Even though Eun-sik grows increasingly desperate with their unconsummated relationship, he is madly in love and will do anything for Gyeong-a, like going to the rescue when she's stuck in a bathroom stall that's run out of toilet paper.
Meanwhile, Seong-guk (Choi Sung-guk
), the president of Eun-sik's freaky martial arts club, tries to help out his sexually frustrated friend, but they both end up getting arrested in a red light district. Despite the disaster, Eun-sik and Gyeong-a's love remains strong. But when a suave prosecutor tries to compete for Gyeong-a's heart and an injury threatens her swimming career, Eun-sik begins to doubt himself.
Side stories feeding the drama include Seong-guk's determination to revamp their club status by mastering the mixed martial arts ― French-Korean mixed martial artist Denis Kang makes a special appearance _ and a twisted love triangle between Seong-guk, his hysterical girlfriend Yu-mi (Yoo Chae-yeong
) and a seductive swimming coach.
"Zero 2" relies on what made "Zero" a big hit. In the inauguration ceremony "welcoming" two new members ― equivalent to fraternity pledges ― "Zero 2" takes grossness to a whole new level. Think of a cocktail mix from hell _ a bucketful of alcohol spiked with cigarette butts and a dirty sock. This perverse tradition is actually practiced among some Korean college students.
But the makers of the film try too hard to be outrageous. While attempting to explore new sexual adventures on campus, they make the mistake of exploiting the genre, and what had been endearingly eccentric in the first film becomes simply freaky.
While the various sex scenes are far from steamy like the first film, they try to squeeze out laughter from what seems to be more like third-rate pornography, where a girl who claims to be a virgin is far too sexually experienced, and others make a joke of sexual fetishes, like sadomasochism and playing with Sailor Moon costumes.
The film had also made headlines for starring one of the actors in its previous installment as an actress ― literally. Both on and off screen, Lee Dae-hak (Lee Si-yeon
) had undergone a sex change operation, and the movie touches upon the issue rather superficially.
Another downfall of "Zero 2" is the tacky melodrama. Gyeong-a's dark past, while adding some dimension to her relationship with Eun-sik, lacks substance. But the critical blow comes with the absence of genuine comedy.
"Zero 2" is like a bad date, with some meaningless sex and zero fun.