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Mr. Wacky

Kim Hyo-Jin and Park Geon-Hyeong in Mr. Wacky.
AKA: Wacky Teacher  
Year: 2006  
Director: Kim Dong-Wook  
  Cast: Park Geon-Hyeong, Kim Hyo-Jin, Moon Ji-Yoon, Kang Eun-Bi, Lee Kyeon, Jeong Wook, Jo Hyeon-Jae, Kang So-Jeong
  The Skinny: In order to inherit his grandfather's fortune, an incorrigible playboy agrees to teach high school for two years in Mr. Wacky, a bland, mostly irritating comedy from newbie director Kim Dong-Wook. To its credit, the film improves considerably in its second half, but by that time, some will likely find that it's a case of too little, too late.
Review by Calvin McMillin:      With a title like Mr. Wacky, one might expect a Korean take on Airplane!-like absurdity or Stephen Chow's mo lei tau sense of humor. But when all is said and done, director Kim Dong-Wook's feature film debut is a decidedly unfunny foray into comedy that fails to live up to expectations. This 2006 release improves considerably after the second act, but will it be enough to make up for the lackluster start? Guess it depends on how hard a grader you are.
     The film's premise isn't new. As was the case with the recent Korean comedy Oh! My God, this film revolves around a worthless lothario who happily spends all his family's money while chasing after buxom young girls. Park Geon-Hyeong, last seen in The Innocent Steps alongside cutesy star Moon Geun-Young, takes on the thankless role as Ju-Ho, the lone playboy in a long line of dedicated teachers. Somehow, his grandfather has become a very rich man, but never forgetting the lessons he learned as a teacher. Angered by his grandson's reckless ways, ol' Gramps cancels all of the boy's credit cards and rewrites his will so that his vast fortune will be given to charity.
     Ju-Ho is in a state of panic at his future prospects, but Grandpa offers him a reprieve: teach high school for two years and all the money is yours. After some initial hesitation, Ju-Ho agrees to become a sophomore math teacher. Voila! The plot is in motion. It's just that easy. Sure, the film pays little attention to details like Ju-Ho's teaching qualifications or exactly how the Korean secondary education system really works, but hey, it's a comedy, so I guess we're not supposed to think about that stuff, right?
     Checking one's brain at the door is fine, if entertainment soon follows. Unfortunately, the folks behind Mr. Wacky didn't get this memo. As one might guess, Ju-Ho is a horrible teacher, literally phoning it after a few days on the job. Along the way, he butts heads with a fellow teacher, Yun So-Ju (Kim Hyo-Jin, from Barefoot Gi-Bong and Everybody Has Secrets), whose given name is repeatedly made fun of throughout the movie (So-Ju = Korean alcoholic beverage. Ain't that hilarious?). Of course, this tough cookie of a music teacher isn't going to let Ju-Ho walk all over her and ends up making it her mission to cure him of his allegedly "wacky" ways. And yep, you guessed it: it isn't long before the two start to fall for each other. But will So-Ju be able to reach Ju-Ho's softer side? Will he then have a change of heart, learn the importance of hard work, and actually go on to make a difference in the lives of young people? Um, yeah, kinda.
     I'm not exactly sure why the film was titled Mr. Wacky. Maybe Mr. A-Hole wasn't marketable enough - but that's definitely a more accurate title. There's nothing remotely "wacky" about Ju-Ho's behavior. Park Geon-Hyeong does his best, but there's not much for him to work with in the early goings. For the most part, many of the film's so-called jokes aren't properly set up and the resulting punchlines are fairly weak. What's worse is how the movie is cut together. Subplots are brought up almost as quickly as they are forgotten while scenes go on a bit too long and just seem to peter out with little regard for how they fit together or whether they're building towards anything substantive at all.
     Mr. Wacky is more or less paint-by-numbers stuff, but the people behind the camera can't seem to get the colors right. For instance, when Ju-Ho finally decides to turn over a new leaf, it doesn't feel at all like he made the decision based on anything that preceded that milestone - instead, just seems as if the filmmakers looked at each other and said, "Oh, I guess it's time for the turning point." This should be a stirring cinematic moment - whether it's played straight or not - but instead it's all too bland.
     Yet, here's the strange part: when the film finally commits itself to the "Time to get serious about being a teacher" storyline, the movie actually gets a second wind. Standout scenes in this portion of the movie include Ju-Ho's counseling of a young female student (perpetual pre-teen Kang Eun-Bi, from 2005's Wet Dreams 2), a surprisingly effective musical interlude, and pretty much everything involving the leads' budding, enjoyable-to-watch flirtation. A lot of stuff in this section of Mr. Wacky works well, in spite of the sometimes inept filmmaking on display. With that in mind, it's a bit disappointing that the "rousing finale," the resolution of the love plot, and the final jokey tag ending don't work as well as they should have. It's okay, but the character beats should have been hit a little harder.
     So how does Mr. Wacky fare on my audience exam? Well, if you're a fan of Park Geon-Hyeong and Kim Hyo-Jin, or you just like mildly uplifting stories about teachers, then this flick just might be worth checking out, but even so, there's still that crappy first half to wade through. As such, if I were to give this film a grade then Mr. Wacky would likely get C+ on his report card. And I'm in a good mood. (Calvin McMillin, 2006)
Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
Fantom Korea
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Various Extras
  Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen