Dancing Queen

A buoyant Capra-esque venture that sometimes stumbles but never fails to dazzle.

With: Hwang Jung-min, Eom Jeong-hwa, Ra Mi-ran, Lee Han-wi, Jeong Seong-hwa, Lee Dae-yeong, Chun Bo-geun, Ahn Eung-jung. (Korean dialogue)

With comic pirouettes and surprise flips, South Korean romantic comedy “Dancing Queen” is a buoyant Capra-esque venture that sometimes stumbles but never fails to dazzle. Frequent laughs adorn the script’s depiction of a drifting married couple — a lawyer and an aerobics instructor — trying to stay committed while he takes a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”-style crack at politics, and she chases a dream of dancing fame. Pic’s early January release scored points with local auds to the tune of $26.4 million, and Stateside producers seeking remake material should line up for a look.

It’s 1982, and democracy is experiencing its first rumblings in South Korea when Jung-min (Chun Bo-geun), who hails from Busan, moves to Seoul and runs afoul of “sophisticated” schoolgirl Jung-hwa (Ahn Eung-jung). The pair’s childhood antipathy morphs into romance years later, when Jung-min, now played by Hwang Jung-min (“The Unjust,” “Shiri”), has become an uptight student activist who meets good-time girl Jung-hwa, now played by  Eom Jeong-hwa (“Haeundae,” Insadong Scandal”), and finds himself emotionally liberated.

When love fades, reality sets in, and the now-married couple’s former antagonism returns: Jung-min is a lawyer often working pro bono on behalf of poor, elderly and/or socially disadvantaged clients, leaving the financial burden of the household to fall on Jung-hwa, who teaches aerobics classes. But when the Seoul government begins looking for an honest man to clean up the mess left by entrenched corrupt politicians, Jung-min’s fortunes start to turn; around the same time, Jung-hwa lucks into an opportunity to be a singer and dancer with a risque K-pop group, the Dancing Queens.

The script’s major drawback is its lengthy exposition; it takes more than an hour for the story to nudge up against its ultimate dilemma about whether Jung-hwa will follow her dancing dreams and destroy her husband’s chances of political success. Fortunately, the pic boasts abundant laughs that offset its draggy progress.

While regular guy Hwang is a deliberate mismatch for the sexed-up Eom, the pair’s characterizations are note-perfect. In addition to displaying comedic flair, both thesps nail the emotional intensity the story’s climax requires without betraying the pic’s primarily humorous thrust. Supporting thesps transcend their broad stereotypes with exuberance and professionalism, with Ra Mi-ran a standout as Jung-hwa’s Rosie O’Donnell-like best friend/hairdresser, Myeong-ae.

Eschewing fancy moves, writer-director Lee Seok-hoon (“See You After School”) exhibits a functional, uncluttered approach to directing, always working in service of his script. Although shot on film, the pic has the washed-out look of overlit video; regardless, when it comes to Eom’s dance numbers, the visuals glitter and sparkle like a disco ball. Score by Hwang Sang-jun is a little trite, but does the job; for the record, the Abba song referenced by the title is conspicuously absent here. Other tech credits are solid.

Dancing Queen

South Korea

Production: A CJ Entertainment presentation of a CJ Entertainment, JK Film production. (International sales: CJ Entertainment, Seoul.) Produced by Yun Je-gyun, Lee Han-seung. Executive producers, Katherine Kim, Jay Gil. Co-producer, Gil Young-min. Directed, written by Lee Seok-hoon.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Choi Jin-ung; editor, Lee Jin; music, Hwang Sang-jun; production designer, Gang Seung-yong; costume designer, Kim Eun-suk; sound (Dolby Digital), Lee Seung-yup. Reviewed at Hong Kong Filmart, March 19, 2012. Running time: 119 MIN.

With: With: Hwang Jung-min, Eom Jeong-hwa, Ra Mi-ran, Lee Han-wi, Jeong Seong-hwa, Lee Dae-yeong, Chun Bo-geun, Ahn Eung-jung. (Korean dialogue)

More Film

  • Wild Treasures of China

    France's ZED, China's CCTV9 Join Forces on Docu Series 'Wild Treasure of China'

    ZED, the Paris-based production company, is joining forces with CCTV9, the factual channel of the Chinese public broadcaster, to produce “Wild Treasure of China,” a 4K-lensed wildlife documentary series. Lensed in the wild landscape of China, the series will shed light on rare species which are repopulating these areas. The series, budgeted at 3 million [...]

  • Picture Tree Intl. Picks Up Carolina

    Picture Tree Intl. Picks Up Carolina Hellsgård's 'Sunburned' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Picture Tree Intl. has acquired the rights to Carolina Hellsgård’s “Sunburned,” the follow-up feature to her zombie drama “Endzeit – Ever After.” PTI will be presenting first footage from the film, currently in post-production, at this year’s German Films Previews (July 3-6). “Sunburned” follows solitary teenager Claire on a family holiday in Spain. Neglected by [...]

  • Whoopi Goldberg addresses the crowd while

    Inside World Pride's Opening Ceremony: An LGBTQ Celebration With a Tinge of Politics

    World Pride officially kicked off on Wednesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. About 8,000 people packed into the arena for a three-hour show that began with Cyndi Lauper singing her hit “True Colors.” The performance ended with a gaggle of dancing drag queens who pranced alongside Lauper as she turned the train of [...]

  • Amy Adams (left) as Lynne Cheney

    Film News Roundup: Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Sets Awards Show for Jan. 11

    In today’s film news roundup, the 2020 awards season schedule gets finalized; AFM will cover immersive content; “Murderous Trance” and “7 Days to Vegas” get acquired; and Kate Katzman has been added to “The Comeback Trail.” AWARDS DATE The Makeup Artists & Hair Stylists Guild has set Jan. 11 as the date for its seventh [...]

  • Disney Pandora World Of Avatar, Lake

    The Piano Guys Play 'Avatar' Theme in Disney World (Watch)

    The YouTube sensation The Piano Guys have taken a trip to the world of Pandora for a performance of the theme to “Avatar.” Shot in the bioluminescent floating forest in Disney World, cellist Steven Sharp Nelson and pianist Jon Schmidt put their spin on the score to James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster. The video immerses the [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Billy Drago, 'Untouchables' Star, Dies at 73

    Billy Drago, who often played harming but chilling gangster roles and appeared in Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables” and Clint Eastwood’s “Pale Rider,” died Monday in Los Angeles of complications from a stroke. He was 73. The character actor played Al Capone’s henchman Frank Nitti in 1987’s “The Untouchables.” On TV series “Charmed,” he put [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content