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2009/10/20 09:12 KST
(Movie Review) Korean Wave star fails to save corny music drama

By Shin Hae-in
SEOUL, Oct. 20 (Yonhap) -- Harsh though it may sound, some topics simply seem out of Korean filmmakers' reach, despite their laudable efforts to break into new genres over the years. Music is clearly one of them.

   In that sense, "Sky and Ocean (Haneulgwa bada)," a film dealing with a violin prodigy suffering from the rare savant syndrome, made a risky bet to begin with.

The main character, Ha-neul, played by Korean Wave star Jang Na-ra, is a gifted 20-something violinist suffering from a developmental disorder known as savant syndrome. Although she is mentally six years old, Ha-neul shows brilliance in music and numbers which leads her to meet Ba-da (Hyeon Junie), a next door neighbor who wants to shut out the world after being abandoned by her parents.

   Joined by Jin-gyu (Yu Ah-in), a lonesome pizza delivery boy who has no place to live, all three head off on a journey during which Ha-neul warms the hearts of the other two with music and affection they've never before known.

Directed by Oh Dal-kyun, who also did "Heart is (2006)," a children's movie about young siblings and a puppy, "Sky…" similarly turns out to be a joyful film that deals with hope, love and friendship.

   But what it lacks is any grounding to the reality concerning the heroine's illness or the family and money problems the other young people face. The movie is also heavy with melodious sound effects, making it seem at times more like a music video than a film, and the lines are often so corny that viewers will find themselves chuckling in embarrassment.

   Jang, who is especially popular in China as a singer and an actress, does show off improved acting skills, but that falls short of saving the rest of the film.

Debuting in the local pop music scene in 2001, the 28-year-old star has often been criticized for a "childlike" acting style that has limited her roles. Her first film, "Oh! Happy Day (2003)," was a local box office disaster -- a result that built up a "dread for doing movies," as the actress confessed afterward.

   In "Sky…," however, Jang appears more stable and performs her role brilliantly. For the filming, she shed about 7kg from her usual 45kg.

   "I read the scenario and felt I was too big to play the role of a girl who stays at home all day, doesn't eat much and believes she is six years old," she said after the movie's preview Monday. "I felt so happy and so right playing her."

   Jang also sang the film's title song, composed by Jerry and Katreese Barnes. It was the first time the U.S. musicians had worked with a Korean singer.

   The movie, with a running time of 104 minutes, will hit local theaters on Oct. 29.