SCANDAL MAKERS Review
Cha Tae-hyun has struggled to emulate the success of his MY SASSY GIRL co-star Jeon Ji-hyun. His work in the 8 years since has failed to emulate the reception of his debut, with his scene-stealing female co-star reaping most of the rewards. However, while Jeon, or “Gianna” as she now insists on being called, has opted to cast off her well-worked persona as one of Asia’s better comedic actresses in favour of the limp and anaemic BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE, Cha has stuck to his proven genre of romantic comedy and may have finally stumbled onto a another winner.
In SCANDAL MAKERS (aka SPEEDY SCANDAL), Cha plays popular radio talk show host Hyeon-soo, who dishes out flippant relationship advice to lovelorn schoolgirls, while enjoying a healthy playboy lifestyle after hours. However, life deals him a royal kick in the teeth when his most popular caller, Jeong-nam (Park Bo-yeong), turns up on his doorstep with her young son, Ki-dong, claiming to be his daughter. After much heated discussion and an impromptu paternity test at the local veterinary clinic, Hyeon-soo begrudgingly welcomes Jeong-nam and her sleepwalking minor into his carefully constructed life, but forces them to assume the identities of more distant relatives to avoid any scandal.
Of course the situation is absurd, but there-in lies the humour and first-time writer/director Kang Hyeong-cheol successfully milks the premise for all that it’s worth over the next hour-and-a-half. Like many Korean films, the pinnacle of success is depicted as having a walk-in wardrobe and cooking oneself a hearty, yet healthy, breakfast. In fact the film’s opening credits play like a pristine, child-friendly version of Dexter, as Hyeon-soo’s morning ritual is played out to hip-swinging jazz and the credits themselves hang from the mise-en-scene.
Sadly this visual inventiveness is soon forgotten about, but is traded in for fine characterisation and some toe-tapping musical numbers - perhaps one too many, but not enough to become offensive. Cha makes for a likeable lead, never straying far from the droopy goofiness we have seen from him in the past and never letting his wily persona get too out-of-hand to make him anything less than endearing. Park Bo-yeong has a fair set of lungs on her, assuming she did her own singing, and plays the wise-beyond-her-years young mother and aspiring singer/songwriter Jeong-nam just right.
However, both the adult leads are blown clean off the screen by Hwang Seok-hyeon, who plays Hyeon-soo’s grandson, Ki-dong. He sleepwalks, he plays the piano, he emphatically announces his name to anyone who asks and has a keen eye for the ladies. In a role that could so easily have become mawkish, grating and show-stoppingly dreadful, the young whipper-snapper has all the best lines and most memorable moments and is consistently the best thing in the film.
SCANDAL MAKERS largely ignores the contrivances of its own plot to spend more time with the three interesting and amusing lead characters. The film never attempts to lecture on the apparently epidemic teen pregnancy problem within Hyeon-soo’s family and refreshingly uses infant somnabulism almost exclusively for laughs. Any film comfortable enough to reject political correctness so brazenly and milk these topics for their full comedic potential in a maintream family-oriented piece of entertainment earns my unreserved recommendation.