LFF 2019: The Dude in Me

Criminal organisations, high school, they both have their own problems in The Dude in Me.

Comedy is something that can be very subjective. When you add language and cultural barriers into that it can be very hard to make something that works. This is what makes films like director Kang Hyo-jin’s The Dude in Me such a joy, it’s a film that can be shown anywhere and deliver the same level of laughs.

Jang Pan-soo is a precise and ruthless criminal turned businessman, stepping over anyone and everyone in his work. After a fateful encounter he wakes up in the body of Kim Dong-hyun, a nerdy high school student constantly put down by others. At first horrified, Pan-soo decides to make the most of it as other criminals make bids for Pan-soo’s power. Things get even more complicated when it turns out that Oh Hyun-jung, a classmate of Dong-hyun’s, is the daughter of Oh Mi-sun, the woman Pan-soo loved and lost years before.

Pop idols turning to acting is something that we’ve been seeing a lot of in recent years in Asian cinema. The results can be mixed, so I was surprised in the best possible way by B1A4 boyband member Jung Jin-young’s performance as Pan-soo in Dong-hyun’s body. As Dong-hyun he’s shy and awkward, but the physical and behavioural shift when he’s playing Pan-soo has him exude the perfect sense of a confident and ruthless businessman/criminal.  

One thing I could have done without was all the fat jokes. It seems that making young Dong-hyun a loser wasn’t enough, he had to be a fat loser. Perhaps the decision behind this is that nobody would believe that someone who looked like a K-pop star would be bullied and ignored by his peers, so they had to make him look as little like one initially so that he can have that all important fitness montage and slim down to then dramatically walk down a corridor in slow motion while everyone gapes at him. I just feel that we should be beyond hitting the lowest common denominator comedically with fat suits and “did the fat kid steal food” jokes, it’s lazy.

That aside, the comedy delivers real belly-laughs throughout, from the absurd to the farcical rom-com scenarios. It’s also not just comedy, there are some smoothly choreographed fight scenes in the mix as well. It’s solid action, and shows that it’s not just comedy that Jung Jin-young has potential in.

The other characters could potentially feel somewhat flat in comparison to Pan-soo, but they have their charm. Lee Jun-hyeok as Man Chuk, Pan-soo’s loyal underling, is an unexpected comedic delight, and Lee Soo-min as Oh Hyun-jung at the centre of the various worries of both Pan-soo and Dong-hyun is charming with a hint of badass. The real treat of the film though is Ra Mi-ran as Oh Mi-sun. She’s a real tough gal who has been done wrong by Pan-soo but has tried to make the best of it.

The problem is that a large chunk of the film, that of the bidding for Pan-soo’s place in the criminal hierarchy, isn’t all that interesting, at least not as much as the hijinks elsewhere. The film also doesn’t do as much as it could do with the other side of the swap as it could have done, with Dong-hyun in Pan-soo’s body being in a coma for most of the runtime. That is a shame because the little we see of Park Sung-woong as Dong-hyun in Pan-soo’s body, he is very funny.

An entertaining spin on the body swap comedy concept, The Dude in Me may not offer anything too deep or thoughtful, but it is a lot of fun.


Updated: Oct 29, 2019

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