Recent court cases, specifically the O.J. Simpson trial, might have made spousal murder a subject too touchy for domestic comedies — at least for a while. But as he showed in his previous pic, Kang is inspired by Hollywood’s formulas, not unlike Pedro Almodovar, who also mines gold from classic pix.
This time, points of reference are “How to Murder Your Wife” from 1965 and the 1962 Italian fave “Divorce — Italian Style.”
Joong-Hoon Park, who played the younger rookie in “Two Cops,” is cast as Bong-Soo Park, top exec of a film company, which is now shooting a marital comedy.
So-Young Chang (Jin-Sil Choi), Park’s beautiful wife, is nominally the head of publicity, but actually intervenes in every aspect of her hubby’s operation, recutting the film and even changing its ending.
Holding that the denouement isn’t effective enough for female audiences, she orders reshooting, transforming the film into a feminist tract in which the avenging wife stabs, instead of forgives, her philandering husband.
In a parallel subplot, Park carries on an affair with his greedy leading lady. Resenting his wife’s tough commandeering, on and off the set, Park resolves to get rid of her in schemes that get progressively desperate — and hilarious.
When a doctor reports that his wife has a heart condition and “strenuous sex” might endanger her health, Park initiates an aggressive all-night lovemaking session. But as expected, the marathon enthralls So-Young and leaves Park frustrated and exhausted. Desperate, Park hires a hit man, under the guise of a movie extra, who ends up being inept.
For the most part, “How to Top My Wife” is well directed and skillfully crafted, though pic’s tone changes from mild comedy to farce to broad slapstick.
Pic’s humor is not as funny or fresh as “Two Cops,” which managed to find new angles and twists in an established genre. New comedy is marred by conventional routines and unsatisfying ending.
Nonetheless, as the bickering duo, Park and Choi show facility with broad humor and physical pranks. A bold visual style, with pink walls and blue doors, resembles Almodovar’s work and highlights pic’s vivid and campy texture. The meticulous orchestration of the elaborate sight gags recall Blake Edwards at his most resourceful.