Hello Ghost

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(Well what do we have here?  A Korean comedy starring Cha Tae-hyun?  That has been snapped up already for an American remake?  At the very least, colour me interested.  I’m not expecting “My Sassy Girl”, but I have been lacking in a good Korean comedy recently, and I know Cha Tae-hyun is always a decent draw.   I’ll admit initial expectations were mild, but I was actually rather pleasantly surprised.

Hello Ghost” starts with a rather depressed Sang Man (Cha Tae-hyun) attempting to unsuccessfully commit suicide.  He is a rather depressed and lonely individual,  an orphan with no obvious friends.  After his latest attempt to end it all ends with him waking in hospital, he finds himself surrounded by four ghosts – a Chain-smoking man (Ko Chang-seok), a rather randy old guy (Lee Moon-su), a constantly crying woman (Jang Young-nam) and a young boy (Cheon Bo-geun).  A trip to a shaman informs him that he has to help these ghosts move on before they will let him die.  The real downside of this is that they take over his body to perform these tasks, which of course leads to humorous hi-jinks.  Along the way he meets a pretty Nurse (Kang Hye-won), who has issues with her living family, and of course something romantic starts to happen.

Ok, so you look at that synopsis, and you might think “yeah that sounds ok, nothing original”, but should pass the time”.  And I would agree.  The jokes actually work quite well as on the whole they are physical in nature, and lets face it, Cha Tae-hyun is great at what he does – the put upon everyman.  Actually, he does get to stretch himself a little here, and does well when putting on the affectations of his ghostly inhabitants.  Our spirits are fun and amusing, and even when they are being a little obtuse, it all becomes clear later.  Kang Hye-won is an attractive and interesting love interest, although given the near 2 hour running time, I think I would have liked to have a little bit more time given over to her story.  In fact that is my main issue with the whole film – it might be a fault with the subtitles, but I really did not understand the problem she had with her own father.  I got the general idea, but it could have done with a little more screen time.

What makes it extra special to my mind is the twist.  Now to be fair, I suspect the experienced film-goers amongst you will twig what is going on well in advance, there is obviously much more going on here than Sang Man experiencing the desires of others in order to rediscover his love for life.  I am being as coy as ever, as to not get the final act away, but suffice to say it is very well done, and both heart warming and as long as you keep it to yourselves, actually made me cry a little.  Most of all – it makes sense with regards to the characters,and actually means the film can be watched a second time with this knowledge to see it in a different light.

The film is actually quite clever when showing the ghosts.  It uses a mix of having them sharing the screen with Sang Man, as well as having Cha Tae-hyun take on their characteristics.  Don’t be too put off by the movie posters – they all seem to show some kind of blue makeup effect which just does not happen on screen.  All our spirits are a lot of fun, and whilst most were new to me, I always enjoy seeing Jang Young-nam, who is a common supporting actress in both Korean TV and film.  Ko Chang-seok as the chain smoker is my absolute favourite though, there is a creepy oddness about him that is totally turned on its head once the final reveal is made.

As I said in my preamble, this has been snapped up by Chris Columbus for a Hollywood remake (and that actually fills me with fear, but occasionally he does OK), so my guess would be that it actually plays well to Western Audiences.  The jokes are on the whole universal, as is the idea behind the film.  I was a little disturbed (and not for the first time in an Asian film) about the starting off of a comedy with a suicide, but I think that is just a cultural thing that I have learned to overcome.

So, its funny, good performances, and with a twist that actually works and adds something to the story.  It isn’t a classic, but it is very worthwhile.  That makes it Recommended on this blog.

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