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Please Teach Me English
  |     review    |     availability     |


DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
2-Disc Set
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Various Featurettes and Extras

Year: 2003
Director: Kim Sung-Soo
Cast: Lee Na-Young, Jang Hyuck, Angela Kelly, Kim In-Moon, Na Moon-Hee, Kim Yong-Geon, Kim Young-Ae, Choi Joo-Bong
The Skinny: Light, fluffy, and decidedly uneven, Please Teach Me English also manages to be engaging, enjoyable, and a damn fun time at the movies. This isn't earth-shattering stuff, but those who can't find some enjoyment here are probably dead inside.
by Kozo:

     It's more Korean romantic comedy! Like most of its ilk, Please Teach Me English is uneven stuff, with multitudes of wacky jokes, annoying mugging, and over-the-top characters who could only exist in the movies. However, it's also creative stuff, with charismatic stars who give funny, and not egregiously over-the-top performances, and a likable streak that makes the film's predictable transformation from fun comedy to saccharine romance a tolerable one.
     Lee Na-Young (Who Are You?) is Young-Ju, an incredibly wacky public official who's elected by her office (via spin the bottle) to take English lessons. As a public office, they sometimes get English-speaking patrons, but apparently everyone who works there is without Western language ability. So naturally, she has to go to school. Her first and only choice for English lessons is a local institute, where her teacher is the gorgeous, blond Cathy (Australian actress Angela Kelly).
     Moon-Su takes up the English name of Candy, and decides to stick with the class, mainly because the dreamy, if not too girl crazy Moon-Su (Jang Hyuck of Volcano High) is in her class. Young-Joo is given the English name Elvis (thanks to his King-like sideburns), and spends his classtime making embarrassing overtures towards his Caucasian teacher, and generally knocking Candy's supposedly plain looks.
     This is, of course, a total fallacy. Lee Na-Young is not plain looking, though the filmmakers go the extra mile by giving her unattractive glasses and perpetually frumpy clothes and hairstyles. Elvis has his own reasons for learning English: his long-lost sister is visiting from the US soon, and he wants to be able to speak to her. Candy just wants to learn so she can impress Elvis, and also to discover new ways to act wacky using English around the office. It's a simple world in these Korean romantic comedies.
     Not that simplicity is bad. It actually isn't, and Please Teach Me English proves that by taking a simple concept (girl likes boy, boy likes other girl, girl tries to win boy over by doing something required by the screenplay), and giving it enough bells and whistles to turn it into something worthwhile, if not especially deep. The characters are over-the-top, but in likable, identifiable ways. Elvis is a good kid who wants to score big with the ladies, but would easily settle for someone not-so-hot with good character. Candy is a needlessly tough girl who will admit her mistakes, even if it means eating crow and befriending her romantic rival.
     Even the stock character of Cathy is given charming life by Angela Kelly, and her struggles with teaching the oddball class (everyone in it is a "type") make for engaging comedy. Nobody in the world of Please Teach Me English is perfect; they're all off-kilter and more than a little odd, but they're all good people too. No bad guys exist, or conflicts which seemingly come out of nowhere. The enemy here is inside each person, and triumph means being able to speak another language—even if it's only a little better than they did two hours ago.
     Eventually, Please Teach Me English does sink into predictable "chase after the guy/girl" romantic comedy clichés, but by then the characters have grown on the viewer enough to make it all okay. The romantic steps taken by Candy and Elvis are not overdone or annoying, and are developed in a sound screenplay that manages to sidestep usual romantic comedy script errors. These characters grow together because it makes sense, and not because of manufactured situations or unearned epiphanies.
     At first glance, this may not seem true, since the film is loaded with routine filler that would normally make one dismiss other similar films. But it works here. Yes, there are tons of bizarre sight gags, Korean wordplay, slapstick, and even weird animated sequences, but none of it is intrusive or attempts anything besides the obvious: making us laugh, or showing that the characters are falliable, imperfect, lovable people. Lee Na-Young and Jang Hyuck make a charming screwball couple, even if they do mug a heck of a lot. However, in contrast to the insanely awful hijinks of 100 Days with Mr. Arrogant, the mugging is confined to the characters, and not the world at large. The characters of Please Teach Me English sometimes resemble cartoon characters, but the world they live in does not. If anything, the world seems remarkably real. Full of silly people, but real.
     Not that this is award-winning stuff, because it probably isn't. It's just lightweight, pleasing stuff that should provide all the requisite enjoyment for your average audience, and possibly even your more demanding ones. Director Kim Sung-Soo, who directed Musa: The Warrior (!), doesn't overdo much, and when he finally does, it's likely that you'll be entertained enough to not care. Yes, this isn't fantastic stuff, but it's enjoyable and fun. And dammit, sometimes that's enough. (Kozo 2004)

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen