Wedding Palace: Film Review
Christine Yoo, Robert Gardner
Brian Tee, Kang Hye-Jung, Bobby Lee, Margaret Cho, Stephen Park, Joy Osmanski, Jean Yoon
Christine Yoo's debut feature is being billed as the first Asian-American romantic comedy.
Wedding Palace is being billed as the first Asian-American romantic comedy and the first U.S.-Korea independent co-production. Too bad, then, that this shrill, unfunny effort from director/co-writer Christine Yoo features such broad clichés and stereotypical characters that it doesn’t exactly reflect well on the Korean-American community.
The story centers on 29-year-old Jason (Brian Tee), who is abandoned at the altar by his would-be bride early in the proceedings. This sends his family, especially his hysterical, domineering mother (Jean Yoon), into a panic, since there is a family curse that will kill him if he fails to marry before his 30th birthday.
It seems that Jason will be saved in the nick of time when he journeys to Seoul on a business trip and meets the lovely Na Young (Kang Hye-Jung), who he first encounters in typically Hollywood meet-cute fashion during a business meeting involving feminine hygiene products. They later meet a karaoke bar and fall for each other, although he shortly thereafter returns home to L.A.’s Koreatown.
The couple embark on a long-distance relationship, complete with Skype dinner dates and long conversations while each is sitting on the toilet (a far cry from Rock Hudson and Doris Day’s famous bathtub phone chats). He soon proposes and she agrees to come live with him in Los Angeles, but their resultant meeting at the airport reveals a disturbing fact that he didn’t know about her, in one of the film’s more bizarre plot twists.
The filmmaker attempts to infuse as many stylistic diversions into the proceedings as possible, including crudely animated segments and faux music videos. But Wedding Palace actually plays much better during its relatively few quieter moments when it stops trying so hard for forced wackiness. The two leads display an appealing low-key charm, and such deadpan supporting players as Stephen Park as Jason’s beleaguered father and Bobby Lee as a friend who takes pride in his wife’s fawning servility provide some decent laughs. (Not surprisingly, comedian Margaret Cho, playing a shaman, is far less subtle).
Wedding Palace is certainly notable for its spotlighting the social and cultural mores of an ethnic group largely neglected in American films. It’s too bad, then, that it seems intent on trafficking in the lowest common denominators.
Opens: Friday, Sept. 27 (GoGoGo Entertainment)
Cast: Brian Tee, Kang Hye-Jung, Bobby Lee, Margaret Cho, Stephen Park, Joy Osmanski, Jean Yoon
Director: Christine Yoo
Screenwriters: Christine Yoo, Robert Gardner
Producers: Christine Yoo, Derek lee, Brian Tee
Directors of photography: Ernest Holzman, Jun Young Kim
Editor: Derek Draper
Production designers: Hillary Gurtler, Yo Han Lee
Costume designer: Saeyoung Vu
Composers: Woody Pak, David Benoit
Not rated, 98 min.