Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Wedding Palace: Love is a Curse

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  You’ve got a big ethnic family and perhaps a wedding.  Wait, there’s also a curse.  Frankly, Jason Kim might be better off with a gruesome death than the women his mother tries to fix him up with.  However, hope might be arriving from Korea in Christine Yoo’s The Wedding Palace (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Thanks to the scandalous behavior of bridegroom hundreds of years again, a painful fate befalls all the men in Kim’s family who are not married before they turn thirty.  At least, so he has always been told.  He is twenty-nine and his fiancée, Jinnie Park, just jilted him at the altar. It is embarrassing for Kim, especially since his parents are convinced he is now doomed.

Even when traveling to Seoul on business, Kim cannot escape his mother’s Hail Mary blind dates.  Yet, one particularly miserable attempt in a karaoke club brings Kim face-to-face with Song Na-young, a very attractive colleague who can sing like an angel.  Despite their halting start, the two commence a passionate long distance love affair.  Soon he Skypes the question and she accepts.  Yet as soon as she lands in L.A. he discovers something about her that will provide him and his family the opportunity to act like first-rate jackasses.  Will true love rebound?  Should the stunning Song even allow him a second chance?  Have you seen a romantic comedy before?

Palace might be formulaic, but most red-blooded viewers will fall head over handlebars for Song during their karaoke sequence.  Old Boy star Kang Hye-jung sounds about as comfortable with English as most of us would performing Shakespeare translated into Esperanto, but she has presence—that “it” factor. 

As Kim, co-producer Brian Tee (the corrupt prosecutor in The Wolverine) makes a likable enough straight man and a convincing heel.  Mad-TV’s Bobby Lee contributes a few laughs and a good measure of energy as Kim’s best friend Kevin.  Unfortunately, Margaret Cho is not any funnier in her cameo as a shaman than she ever has been before.  Perhaps more frustrating, Joy Osmanski, who was so charming in Dave Boyle’s White on Rice, is largely wasted in the thankless role of Park.

For an indie rom-com, Palace is quite a nicely put together package, featuring some handsome cinematography (most notable during the Korean scenes) and an upbeat score composed by David Benoit.  Even though we have more or less seen it all before, Kang makes it hard not to like. Pleasant but predictable, The Wedding Palace is recommended as a date movie for committed couples when it opens this Friday (9/27) in New York at the AMC Empire.