Ju Ji-hoon playing Chung-nyeong climbing over the palace wall to escape from his father's control in "I am the king," set to hit theaters on August 8, 2012. [Daisy Entertainment]
THE BOTTOM LINE
"I am the King" is much like the Korean version of “The Prince and the Pauper,” the 1881 novel by American writer Mark Twain. The historical comedy doesn't miss its timing to bring out the audiences' laughter.
Director Jang Kyu-sung’s fourth full-length film “I am the King” is set in the past but Jang has done a fabulous job in transforming the traditional characters into comic ones to follow the taste of people in 2012.
Fictionalizing the historical incidents from one of the critical periods in Korean history, actor Ju Ji-hoon's new film will raise the roof this summer.
But, the prince, who strongly refuses to become a king, makes up his mind to escape from the palace to live without any political pressure.
After hours of contemplation, Chung-nyeong tries to escape the palace by climbing over the palace wall. There he runs into a drunken slave named Duk-chil, who happens to be at the place to save the love of his life that was captivated by government officials in prison.
The prince immediately changes his wardrobe with drunken Duk-chil’s to avoid the king and the courtiers' sharp eyes. In a terrible twist of fate, however, Chung-nyeong gets treated like a slave once he leaves the palace. Then he begins to open his eyes to the people living in extreme poverty throughout the trip that seems to never end.
A scene of Ju Ji-hoon playing a double role of Chung-nyeong and Duk-chil in "I am the king," set to hit theaters on August 8, 2012. [Daisy Entertainment]
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE
The movie brings fresh assumption and interpretation to the three months before Chung-nyeong sits on the throne. The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, which follows the history of the Joseon Dynasty between 1413 and 1865, leaves out records of this crucial period.
The historical records portrays young Chung-nyeong as a weak person who denies to take part in any outdoor activities but only immerse himself in reading books. But he later becomes Sejong the great, one of the most respected historical figures in Korea by inventing Korean alphabet Hangul.
The director has focused on the missing bridge in the history and borrowed the setting from “The Prince and the Pauper" to create his own version of the king's adolescence.
Ju Ji-hoon, who has returned to the big screen after his three-year-long hiatus, looked stable throughout the whole 120 minutes in playing a double role. He well depicted the sensitivity of Chung-nyeong and the pure heart of Duk-chil, who struggle to adjust to their new environments: the palace and the 'real' world.
Veteran actors such as Kim Su-ro, Im Won-hee and Park Young-kyu, who are known by their roles in comedy films, added more energies in the historical comedy flick.
A scene of Ju Ji-hoon(left) playing Chung-nyeong, who escaped from the palace by disguising himself as a pauper, and actor Im Won-hee (right) playing the prince's warrior in "I am the king," set to hit theaters on August 8, 2012. [Daisy Entertainment]
The last 20 to 30 minutes are invested in explaining how the prince and the pauper go back to their lives. To reach the happy ending, however, some impellent settings begin to surface. For example, a smart slave rescues captivated Chung-nyeong by shooting cannons that he invented by himself at enemies.
This becomes more prominent when the story nears the end and Chung-nyeong debates with a Chinese envoy sent by the emperor. The prince, who was shown as a comic character to the audience, suddenly starts to give a long lesson to the Chinese diplomat not to look down on Joseon. This was felt like a boring lesson to the audience, who suddenly stopped their laughter.
The movie instantly became no more or less than a cliche comedy film.
Nevertheless, it is clear that director Jang has a good taste of selecting the cast members. Not only Ju and aforementioned veteran actors but Lee Mi-do, who portrays Chung-nyeong's first wife in a quite unconventional way, plays a critical role in pulling out the audiences' laughter. Thanks to its ensemble cast, "I am the King" holds onto the hilarious atmosphere throughout the movie though slowing up a bit in the end.
The historical comedy movie will hit local theaters on August 8.
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