Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei
Director: Kim Jin-seong
Cast: Shin Ha-kyun, Lee Yu-won, Kim Min-hie, Kong Hyeong-jin, Kong Hyo-jin, Kim Hak-cheol
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Country: South Korea
Year released: 2002
Length: 99 min
Rating: **½ (out of four stars)
Hot on the heels of the box office success that was My Sassy Girl comes another offbeat Korean romantic comedy Surprise Party, which again serves up a bevy of young Korean actors in a pretty standard genre film. The premise for Surprise Party, however, is even more far-fetched than My Sassy Girl, although the relatively quirky scenarios and the good chemistry between the two leads, even though they are not supposed to have any, keep things interesting. Confused? Well, to say the least Surprise Party has a plot that is a slight spin on the traditional rom-com, but to call the ending a surprise (which the movie poster pleads not to reveal) is an overstatement - its not hard to guess what the twist is, ten minutes into the film.
How do you go about detaining a total stranger for 12 hours? This is what Ha-young (Lee Yo-won) has to do for her best friend, Mi-ryung (Kim Min-hee). Mi-ryung has been planning for a surprise party for her overseas boyfriend Jun-woo (Shin Ha-gyun), but her plans are stopped short when her father finds out that Jun-woo is half-Hawaiian, and forbids the party from being held. Mi-ryung is put under even greater pressure when Jun-Woo tells her that he would arrive early, and she pleads with Ha-Young to intercept Jun-Woo at the airport, and to keep him from turning up at Mi-ryungs place before she can iron things out.
Thus begins Ha-youngs misadventures, as she gets herself and the intercepted Jun-woo into increasingly absurd and embarrassing situations, and only in the movies would she not have been proclaimed insane and carted off to the nearest jail cell to contemplate her actions. However, Jun-Woo is mildly amused by the whole affair, and he finds himself won over by Ha-youngs shenanigans. The duo starts to develop feelings for one another over the day, but Ha-young is constantly mindful of the fact that this is her best friends boyfriend she is falling for. However, she cannot deny the feelings she has for Jun-woo, and its threatening to wreck the friendship between her and Mi-ryung.
Frankly speaking, the plot to Surprise Party borders on the absurd, and requires a great amount of suspension of disbelief, but it somehow manages to fall into place. The two leads Yo-won and Ha-gun is a big factor, as whilst not especially attractive, they are both charming in their own ways. It helps that they share a good chemistry, and makes the unbelievable romance slightly easier to swallow. With such a plot, amusing situations occur quite often in Surprise Party, and a handful is guaranteed to raise a laugh or two. However, some scenes do feel a little too forced in their attempt to be funny, and the effect becomes more subdued once the intention is apparent.
Surprise Party also throws in one subplot too many, especially one that involves Ha-Youngs ex-boyfriend, and whenever the movie switches over to Mi-ryung, the film sags from a lack of anything interesting happening onscreen. Also, theres too much foreshadowing in the film, and takes the punch out of the surprise ending by making it too easy to guess. Again, just like My Sassy Girl, Surprise Party also commits the error of then trying to show the audience exactly how this twist is arrived at, leading to a superfluous sequence that doesnt even really explain matters that well. Thus, Surprise Party falls into the middling portion of Asian films - adequately entertaining, but never cerebrally challenging in any way, and not a film that leaves much of an impression once the lights come on.
Final Word: If you check your brain at the door, Surprise Party is a film that wont really disappoint.