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[REVIEW] MBC sitcom "High Kick 2"

최종수정 2009.10.28 18:40 기사입력 2009.10.28 18:40


MBC sitcom "High Kick 2" [MBC]

By Cho Ji-young, TV critic
MBC sitcom "High Kick 2" does not hide the fact that it is shares the same roots as "High Kick 1". If you really think about it, it is Min-ho (played by Kim Hye-sung) that calls out Se-gyeong (Sin Se-gyeong) and Shin-ae (Seo Shin-ae) out into the world in the first episode. The structure of the family too is similar. There are slight differences such as there being an unmarried brother-in-law on the wife's side instead of on the husband's, a slightly idiotic son-in-law instead of a son and the scariest woman in the house is the daughter instead of the daughter-in-law. But the power structure amongst the figures are like in "High Kick 1" where they are all interconnected with one character being more, or less powerful than another character. The two sitcoms are similar in that one of the main backgrounds is a school and it manages to draw out humor unexaggeratedly. One thing though, is that "High Kick 2" has taken a step further than its predecessor in portraying its perception of reality. That is why the situation where you will 'laugh but also be crying' will have become more intense. Compared to its prequel which focused more on the relationships and conflicts within a family, "High Kick 2" is more complex in its intentions. Accordingly, its exterior has also broadened. It is all because that high kick is aimed at the roof of 'Korean society, right here, right now'.

The sisters Se-gyeong and Shin-ae are simple observers of Korean society who also represent the problems of poverty and class. The reason they went to hide in the mountains and the reason they came back was because of their father's debt, and the reason Se-gyeong bears through working as a maid is because of Shin-ae's education. Education is a big problem in Hae-ri's household too although it takes on a slightly different appearance. Joon-hyuk (Yoon Si-yoon), the son who is not interested in studying and private tutor Jung-um (Hwang Jung-eum) are like cats-and-dogs and the spiteful little Hae-ri (Jin Ji-hee) cannot solve even the simplest addition and subtraction problems without a calculator. Jang-in (Lee Soon-jae) holds the purse strings in the family so the life of the son-in-law Bo-suk (Chung Bo-suk) living with his wife's family is that much more pitiful. There is a difference to its extent and format but the issues of eating, living and teaching are always inherent within "High Kick 2".

To be more blunt, Hae-ri's greediness to take away the one thing that the Se-gyeong and Shin-ae sisters have to complete the nine other things she already has and how she ignores them is mostly surpressed by little knocks in the head but the stinging words which come from her mouth are frightening quite often. Society's hierarchy, ultimately determined by money, is the reality we live in everyday and that means even this little child is able to easily recognize such a reality.

Hence, the Se-gyeong and Shin-ae sisters who have nowhere to go, are often envious of Hae-ri's household who lack in nothing. It is more so the case for Shin-ae, who is from a world where there is no TV or Coke. But the people in Shin-ae's house themselves are no different, each member living in deficiency of something. It is because 'the grass looks greener on the other side' and the desire of wanting something that you do not have. Soon-jae, who runs a perfectly normal middle-sized company, misses his youth, Hyun-gyung misses her mother who passed away early and Hae-ri wishes she would not have constipation. Ji-hoon (Choi Daniel) who might as well be called a genius, has claustrophobia and Jung-um wishes she graduated from a better school.
"High Kick 2" operates in this incomplete world which is full of contradictions. Jung-um will not be able to resist the new arrivals hung in store windows, Soon-jae will keep farting, Bo-suk will keep acting idiotic and Se-gyeong's poverty will not be resolved. However, it is not easy to stop caring for these people who have shortcomings which cannot be overcome. The love for these characters comes from the fact that they stand on a ground which is highly linked to reality. There is not a single character who has been created to make someone cry or laugh, or sum up someone's life or give a sneak peak into another's. Their harmony (or you may see it as discord) comes from their own personalities and stubbornness in dealing with other people and the world. But from Joon-hyuk's blank expression, Ji-hoon's bad EQ, Se-gyeong's tough life and Jung-um's chaotic life, that a streak of love may pop up at one point by coincidence. So-called 'flashes of rapturing moments' will appear like sudden gleams of light though the shortcomings will not disappear, the accidents will be repeated and the future will seem gloomy. Hence, an pessimistic optimism or an optimistic pessimism will run the world of "High Kick".

By Yoonina, TV critic
"Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot". This quote by Charlie Chaplin can be applied directly to MBC sitcom "High Kick 2". Although concealed under the genre's characteristic of being a comedy, what Kim Byung-wook wanted to show through his work was that life is ultimately a tragedy. And "High Kick 2" laid out the source of that tragedy extremely frankly from the very first episode -- by keeping Se-gyeong and Shin-ae away from their father, having these two close-to-beggars being thrown into Seoul which 'is full of everything' and them going through almost 'survival-like battles' to make 'money' in 21st century Seoul.

Compared to "High Kick 1", the sequel contains less scenes of the families gathering at the dining table or living room. There is almost no time that the families get together, other than during the short time they eat, and they all live their lives 'outside' the house. In the prequel, Soon-jae was a character who attempted to maintain his status as a 'father and grandfather with authority' although he had been challenged by his daughter-in-law. But in "High Kick 2", he barely pays attentions to the family other than when he gets mad at the incompetent Bo-suk. Like such, money is the medium which links the characters in the second series, different from the first where they are linked because they are families. And that is why the main occurences revolve around money and power rather than conflicts between family members. While "High Kick 1" expanded on its story with the family at the center, "High Kick 2" is led by the conflicts between individuals who have different economic and social status.

In the process of these individuals meeting and encountering problems, "High Kick 2" expands its setting from houses, schools and hospitals into '21st century Seoul'. The misfortunes that the characters come across, such as Shin-ae being held at a restaurant because she cannot pay for the food or Jung-um lying about her education so she can pay for her credit card bills, very frankly reveals '21st century Seoul' which is about the abundance which in turn creates shortages and discrimination. That is why viewers living 'right here, right now' will feel uncomfortable watching the sitcom. It is because the moment you bring someone else's life, which is a comedy, in front of your own eyes, we cannot help but acknowledge that the lives portrayed in "High Kick 2" are not the only miserable ones but so are ours. You have to admit to the ugly truth that although people talk about the 'middle class', it actually no longer exists, whether young or old, everyone is dominated by money and power and we all have to 'survive somehow' like Se-gyeong and Shin-ae do.

Despite all that, there are moments in the sitcom when such tragic lives are slightly portrayed as beautiful ones. When Se-gyeong and Shin-ae's father lies to them to send them to Seoul, reminding us of film "Life is Beautiful" and the 'magical moment' along the Han river when Julien (Julien Kang) becomes the first person to reach out to the sisters, such moments show us that '21st century Seoul' is not a scary place where all you do is get hurt.

Two facets of '21st century Seoul' coexist in "High Kick 2". The families which live in a two-story high house and a traditional house, and the people who fall asleep under the lights shining from Namsan in the cold and darkness. They are moments where money has created tragedy but those people also endure the tragedy with their hearts. The reason the occurences within the sitcom do not end in a hearty laugh but leave a bitter feeling is because such extreme moments are inherent within the incidents. They love but are shy, are lazy but feel sorry for them, are annoyed but cannot help but wondering and are thankful but also sorry. Hence, it could be called a comedy or tragedy. "High Kick 2", which contains all these elements, is about what is happening 'now' in the present tense. Whether you watch a tragedy from close up or comedy from far away, or are looking for the power structure or love line between the characters, the fact is that there 'is' this sitcom, in the midst of where 'everything is so full that it is the same as being empty'. In the end, what might matter is the fact that we can watch it because it exists.

Editor : Jessica Kim
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