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'My Boss, My Teacher' sticks to same formula

2006/01/19 Source

The problem with a sequel like "My Boss, My Teacher" ("Two-sabu ilchae") is that it's about the same characters and the elements of freshness are gone. The same gangsters attempt to score some academic points and help the society eliminate evil factors.

In the first installment of the gangster comedy back in 2001, Gae Doo-sik (Jung Joon-ho) was forced to attend a high school and get away with at least the credentials to lead one of the country's leading gangster groups (these days, you have to be smart to be a gangster, and that's the key point).

At the end of the first piece "My Boss, My Hero", Doo-sik was given another order from his higher boss: go to college because the standard for gangster leaders has been raised.

That has laid out the basic premise for the sequel and in "My Boss, My Teacher", Doo-sik is attending college, something that he should be quite proud of. But he's not a good college student because his underling Sang-du (Jung Woong-in) is taking classes and enjoying some campus love affair on behalf of his boss. The momentum comes when Sang-du cannot serve the boss in such a faithful way. For the last semester, all the education majors in Korean universities have to go out to actual schools for several weeks for teacher training. Doo-sik cannot force Sang-du to do the job in his stead; so the boss himself is dispatched to the trouble-laden high school.

While the first of the series attacked the corrupt private school foundation, the sequel zooms in on corruption of an individual teacher. The critical bar, in other words, has been lowered a bit, but the point remains the same that even though this is a comedy, there should be some scenes criticizing the unjust and irrational aspects of the country's education system.

Meanwhile, Jung Woon-taek plays Dae Ga-ri (meaning "head" in a vulgar term), a role reserved for enduring almost uninterrupted beatings and ridicule.

And it turns out that Doo-sik's greater boss Oh Sang-jung (Kim Sang-joong) is attending a high school, the same path that Doo-sik went through with much difficulty. Unfortunately, or fortunately, Doo-sik happens to teach at a school where his greater boss Sang-jung is studying (or rather suffering).

As most of the supposedly comic scenes follow the same pattern showcased in the first movie, it's difficult to find fresh points. For instance, an online community called "Cafe" in Korea was a subject of laughter in the first film, and a local online service called "Cyworld" (or Cy in a short form) is used as a comic point again.

A major difference, though, comes from not-that-comic scenes where Doo-sik comes across a female student who struggles to survive in a hostile society. She faces sexual harassment from her own teacher (not Doo-sik, but an overly evil-minded teacher) because she doesn't have enough money.

Although the female student's episode is somewhat unrealistic and exaggerated, "My Boss, My Teacher" tries to solidify its own identity by inserting a new element.

Unfortunately, the film's didactic preaching about the corruption at schools does not come as an impressive aspect. Rather the same and proven slapstick comic acts by Jung Jun-ho, Jung Woong-in and Jung Woon-taek are fully enjoyable and the film is obsessed with benign laughter, something that will come in handy as a forthcoming Lunar New Year holiday picture.

Veteran actor Kim Sang-joong has demonstrated his willingness to test his limit as a chief boss who suffers bullying and beating at school, but his performance does not go smoothly with the three other main characters.

In the press preview Tuesday, most laughed at "My Boss, My Teacher", but this is either going to be the last "My Boss" movie or the filmmakers should really find a totally different angle. After all, it's no longer funny that movie producers blindly opt for the repetition of the same formula to squeeze a few more dollars out of the brand name that is now incapable of producing true sequels. Just don't ask how the movie ends regarding yet another sequel.

By Yang Sung-jin

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