A scene from the upcoming movie "Hello Ghost" starring Cha Tae-hyun, center, which will open in theaters Dec. 22. / Courtesy of New Entertainment
By Han Sang-hee
Living as an orphan is tough for Sang-man, played by the talented Cha Tae-hyun, and so he tries to commit suicide a number of times, but fails miserably. After one close call, he starts to see ghosts. Four of them, to be exact. There is the "grandpa ghost", who believes he can read the future of a woman by looking at her butt; the chubby heavy smoker ghost; the lady ghost who cries 24/7 and the little boy ghost with a big appetite.
Sang-man does everything he can to get rid of the clan, but gives up and decides to grant their wishes and wait until they leave on their own. His friendship with the ghosts poses various problems and hinders him in making new friends along the way, since not only can he see them, but they move in and out his body whenever they wish. By helping the ghosts, Sang-man learns that he can also be a part of someone's life, and realizes the true meaning of friendship and love.
Cha, who has returned to the screen for the first time since his big 2008 hit "Speddy Scandal", does his job very well. He portrays the four ghosts perfectly, from the wacky frowns of the old man, the silly and immature cries of the boy to the exaggerated muffles made by the strange woman who enjoys crying in closets. Dubbed as Korea's Jim Carrey, Cha shines throughout the film, going back and forth from the timid yet angry Sang-man and each of the four mysterious ghosts.
However, the mid-part of the movie where Sang-man tries to fulfill each ghosts' wish is a long and tedious process. He follows the old man around to find a camera, watches cartoons and eats sweets for, and with, the little one and travels to swim the freezing cold sea for the chubby smoker. Instead of adding each mission one by one into a well-weaved, intriguing story, the disjointed missions fail to draw viewers.
The shy and cute love story between Sang-man and a pretty nurse Yeon-su, played by Kang Ye-won, tries to lighten the story of the ghosts, but they weigh heavier than one may have thought. The shy couple's romance is not enough to enliven the film's mundane pace, and Kang surprisingly brings a rather superficial depiction of the heroine.
The twist, however, is far from plain. It's shocking enough to win back viewers, and also helps glue all the scattered pieces together.
The writer-turned director, who made a name for himself with heartwarming comedies ("A Bold Family", 2005, and "BA:BO", 2008), explained that the movie was basically made for the last 10 minutes, and after watching the finale, viewers will have to agree. The conclusion explains a lot, and may have viewers feeling better after joining Sang-man on his long journey with the four ghosts for the first 90 minutes.
Perhaps it was a plan to wear out the viewers and have them jump at the end, but whatever the purpose, the director succeeds in delivering a big surprise, but it will take patience to sit through the long road of revelation.
In theaters Dec. 22. Distributed by New Entertainment.
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