Quick Read Review
Body swap comedies have a long history in film, from Freaky Friday (1976) to 17 Again (2009). It is therefore a challenge to offer anything fresh in a genre housing dozens of films that have borrowed from one another over the years. The response to this challenge from South Korean director Hyo-jin Kang is to create a mash up of nearly every body swap comedy ever created. While injecting the film with a 1980’s rom-com aesthetic. In many ways this works creating a fun, light and frothy comedy that shines in its performances and script. However this is also coupled with a constant sense of déjà vu that is never quite shaken off.
Pan-su is a high flying businessman bordering on gangster. His company layered with dark secrets, violence and bribery. His methods of gaining what he wants in redevelopment centring on threats. As Jong-gi the owner of a carpentry shop in the way of Pan-su’s newest development discovers. During a threatening visit to Jong-gi’s carpentry shop Pan-su visits and old haunt of his youth. A Ramen restaurant, that serves his old favourite. However, the joint has changed, with a mysterious new owner in control. The only other customer an overweight and insecure high school boy, Dong-hyun. When the boy rushes off not able to pay, the owner pushes Pan-su into paying for the boys meal.
On leaving the shop, Pan-su hears a scuffle on the roof above, only to see the boy he just bailed out plummet from the roof towards his head. When Pan-su wakes up, he realises he’s in the boys body, his own body deep in a coma. And to make matters worse the boy is the son of the carpenter he has just threatened. What transpires after this point is a multi layered story that includes lost first love, high school bullies, corporate corruption, unknown daughters, and weight loss that transforms Dong-hyun from overweight nerd to a dashing hunk.
If all this sounds slightly mad, it is! Elements of nearly every body swap comedy knotted into a story that takes you from one madcap moment to another in glorious technicolour. The frantic pace matched with assured performances from Jinyoung Jung (Dong-hyun), Sung-woong Park (Pan-su), Mi-ran Ra (Mi-seon) and Kwang-gyu Kim (Jong-gi). The films narrative bouncing along like a rubber ball free of all constraints. Taking you from fantasy to action and romance in a haphazard but ultimately fun rollercoaster of innocent comedy. The film challenging hierarchy, age and gender norms in a fun and engaging manner, providing just enough to keep its audience involved.
However, the mash up of themes and ideas only achieves so much in creating a unique and compelling feature. The Dude in Me ultimately failing to offer anything different to the genre it inhabits; fun and engaging yes, but also quickly forgotten.
Director: Hyo-jin Kang
Cast: Jinyoung Jung, Kwang-gyu Kim, Joon-Hyuk Lee, Soo-min Lee, Sung-woong Park, Mi-ran Ra