Review: ‘Lovely Rivals’

A potential love triangle blossoms into a touching buddy pic in school-set comedy "Lovely Rivals." Film scored a healthy 1 million admissions on local release last November and should perform well in other Asian territories. In the West, it's likeliest chances are as remake material.

A potential love triangle blossoms into a touching buddy pic in school-set comedy “Lovely Rivals.” Film scored a healthy 1 million admissions on local release last November and should perform well in other Asian territories. In the West, it’s likeliest chances are as remake material.

On their first day back at primary school, the 12-year-olds are distraught to discover their new den mother is the notoriously tough Yeo Mi-ok (Yeom Jeong-ah). While Yeo is inflicting collective punishment for the first indiscretion she sees, new kid on the block Go Mi-nam (Lee Se-yeong) walks in late. Infuriated, Yeo escalates group punishment, and battle lines are drawn between the two protags as per pic’s Korean title (literally, “Female Teacher vs. Female Student”).

Feisty Mi-nam holds her own, but the titular combat intensifies when new stud muffin art teacher Gweon (Lee Ji-hun) mesmerizes the school’s female population. Twist is that the young girl has a much more mature attitude than the woman who is supposed to be guiding her from crayons to perfume. While Yeo flirts to get Gweon’s attention, diminutive Mi-nam simply asks for his phone number.

Western auds troubled by perceived underage sexuality in other Korean comedies, like “My Little Bride,” may find a later scene, where Gweon strokes Mi-nam’s hair and pats her derriere, a tad confrontational. Still, the savvy script is well-paced and keeps the substantial laffs rolling. Dramatic gear-change to bring the two rivals together is handled smoothly.

Yeom, the brutal step mom in K-horror “A Tale of Two Sisters,” surprises here with her strong comic timing; the wee Lee Se-yeong is aces as the pint-sized girl in fearless search of love. As school hunk Gweon, Lee Ji-hun is functional.

Inventive use is made of split screen, and production values are up to the usual high standards of South Korean mainstream product.

Lovely Rivals

South Korea

Production

A CJ Entertainment release of a Good Harvest presentation of a Fun & Happiness, CJ Entertainment production. (International sales: Cineclick Asia, Seoul.) Produced by Lim Ji-yeong. Executive producer, Choi Jae-weon. Directed by Jang Gyu-seong. Screenplay, Lee Weon-jae, Jang.

Crew

Camera (color), Lee Du-man; editor, Go Im-pyo; music, Jo Yeong-wook; art director, Jeong Eun-jung; costume designer, Wi Jin-seon; sound (Dolby Digital), Yun Seong-gi. Reviewed on videocassette, Sydney, April 30, 2005. (In Jeonju Film Festival, South Korea.) Running time: 109 MIN.

With

Yeom Jeong-ah, Lee Se-yeong, Lee Ji-hun, Seo Ji-weon, Na Mun-heui.
Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety

Loading