Sunday, January 13, 2008

My Tutor Friend 2 (Korea 2007)

Tarnishing the name of what I consider to be a modern Korean classic, My Tutor Friend 2 (동갑내기 과외하기 레슨 II) shares nothing more than the name of the much-enjoyed My Tutor Friend with Kim Ha-neul and Kwon Sang-woo. Those responsible should be ashamed.

Junko (Lee Cheong-Ah), a Japanese of Korean ancestry, is accepted to Ansei University in Korea and immediately leaves to find her crush, Woo-sung (Yang Jin-woo), who was a Korean studying in Japan, but supposedly had to enlist in the army. Mr. Heo (Lee Yeong-ha) runs the guest house that Junko is staying at, and his son Jong-man (Park Ki-woong) and two buddies (Yoon Yeong-seom) and Poongi (Jo Dal-hwan) also happen to live there. Being the typical young men that they are, they aren't used to having a young woman around, so after only a couple of days, Junko decides that she can't stand living around these pigs and tells Mr. Heo that she wants her money back and she'll be staying elsewhere. Jong-man then has to talk Junko into staying because of his fathers threats, so he decides to lie to Junko, saying that her crush Woo-sung used to stay in the same room she has and is sure to return there when he's on leave. Since she has no other leads as to his whereabouts, this naturally sways her to say in the room at the guest house. This is where the ONLY similarity to the original My Tutor Friend comes in; Mr. Heo forces his to teach Junko Korean three nights a week. Junko needs to polish off her Korean speaking skills for when see confronts Woo-sung about her feelings for him. Naturally, Jong-man teaches Junko some terribly offensive words to say as part of her first lesson so that she'll say it to the entire class during her first day introductions. He continues to abuse his position as her teacher, while his buddies work on ways to impress Junko.

Later, when Jong-man and his boys are hanging out and goofing around, we find out Jong-man used to be on the boxing team at school when an old teammate, Juntae, creates an awkward confrontation. We start learning more about Jung-man, including his past as a boxer, and when an old friend calls him out of the blue, he rushes out to visit someone in the hospital. Now Jong-man is never around and is off working himself ragged doing multiple odd-jobs to make extra money. Jong-man had developed a reputation as a strict money saver, but why the sudden interest in making so much money? And who is this mysterious lady from the hospital he keeps running off to visit in secret? After friendly classmate Hee-jeong (Jang Yeong-ran) gives Junko the address to her beloved Woo-sung, we start to see the jealous side of Jong-man come forward and suddenly he wants to take his job as Korean tutor seriously. Once Junko learns the truth about Woo-sung, she too begins to reevaluate her rollercoaster relationship with Jong-man. Sounds nice enough doesn't it? And then, like most Korean romantic-comedies these days, things take a turn and crash directly into the brick wall of seriousness. We learn the identity of the mystery woman Jong-man's being visiting and how past events have kept him out of the boxing ring. However, Junko knows that Jong-man still has the "fight" inside of him and without asking, enters him into the boxing tournament at school. This creates a rift in their friendship, and when Jung-man's lie about knowing Woo-sung comes to the surface, things get even worse. Will Jung-man get back in the ring to battle his past? And what will become of his relationship with Junko that was built on a lie?

If it sounds like there's a lot going on in My Tutor Friend 2, that's because there is. It also contains one of my biggest pet-peeves in a movie; making the third act incredibly serious. Listen people, it's really OK to let a comedy be funny from beginning to end. I don't need to take a breather from all the laughs in order to cry over something. Actually, in this case, I didn't find myself laughing at all. My Tutor Friend 2 has a lot of problems, with the biggest one being my disliking of the main actress Lee Cheong-ah. Her acting is just terrible. I understand that she's trying to play the part of someone who doesn't speak Korean fluently, but she comes across more like an airhead with the mind of a five year old. She spends most of the movie moping about and whining, while Park Ki-woong's character yells at her. Jong-man's buddies are good for a couple of chuckles, and it's interesting to see Julian Quintart as the exchange student George, but that's about it. As I neared the final minutes I couldn't help but think of how much more I enjoyed the "first" My Tutor Friend and how they only shared the same title in order to attract viewers to the second, because part two doesn't feel like a "true" sequel at all.

Cashing in on the name is how I feel about My Tutor Friend 2 after it was over. Being such a huge fan of the first film, I'm definitely disappointed that "part two" didn't live up to my expectations. They would've been better off giving it a completely different name. Don't be mislead dear viewers, as I was, because none of the same charm, fun and wit of My Tutor Friend is anywhere to be found with this obvious knock-off. Consider yourself warned. (Lee)

Grade: D+


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