Story: Han-na (Kim Ah-jung) is blessed with a great singing voice. It's just that, with her overweight body,
she is not exactly what Korean pop culture is looking for. That's the reason why she sings behind the stage for
popstar Ammy. Because of her looks she has a low self-esteem, however, the words of Sang-jun (Joo Jin-mo), Ammy's
producer, keep her from losing faith in herself. He doesn't seem to care about her appearance and is just impressed
by her singing talent. Han-na falls in love with him, yet it proves to be an unrequited love when she finds out
by accident that Sang-jun talks about her looks in a derogative manner, too. For Han-na a world crashes into pieces...
At first, Han-na thinks about suicide, but then she comes to a drastic conclusion. She is going to let herself be completely remodeled by plastic surgery. For one year, she vanishes from the face of the earth, which at the same time means that popstar Ammy has no one to sing her songs anymore, because Ammy herself doesn't strike one single note right.
Han-na then reemerges as Jenny, a slim and beautifully looking woman. She gets an audition at Sang-jun's studio, who for his part is still looking for a replacement for Han-na. Being blown away by her voice Sang-jun is determined to make Jenny the next superstar. Moreover, Jenny has finally the chance to engage into a romantic relationship with Sang-jun. However, Ammy seems to have gotten behind Jenny's little secret and wants to ruin her career before it has even begun to bear any fruits...
Review: "200 Pounds Beauty" was 2006's surprise hit in Korea. What exactly is it so many moviegoers are getting
excited about? Well, it completey eludes me... "Completely" may not be the right word, that is because the film
actually has its own charm, a good amount of humor, music and furthermore is dealing with one of the number
one subjects in Korean culture: cosmetic surgery. Yet, after all the hype, there is only disappointment left
when the credits hit the screen, because the movie proves to be neither inventive, let alone groundbreaking. It may
seem that I am defending a lonely post here, as there are numerous fans out there making their mind known about how great
this flick is, but I won't talk down the movie without any reason. "200 Pounds Beauty" is just your daily treat when it
is rom-coms you are looking for. There are some nice approaches, but then again, there are just too many flaws, also.
The story of "200 Pounds Beauty" is based on a comic of Suzuki Yumiko, and concerning its basic idea it has all the
ingredients for some nice laughs. These, most of the time, are related to what effect Jenny's/Hanna's appearance has on her
surroundings, natch, and as the film progresses these jokes work surprisingly well, even though one did a rather
awkward job at the beginning.
There is made fun of Korea's obsession with beauty on every occasion. Men think that it's ok for women to undergo plastic surgery as long as it isn't your own girlfriend, and pop culture is full of big-eyed, perfectly slim and tanned idols. That this may also have its disadvantages is shown for instance when Sang-jun wants to get a little bit more intimate with Jenny, who then realizes that everything of her body is artificial and could be brought "out of place" if touched. The way Korea's beauty craze is made fun of is very refreshing and without a doubt the film's strength.
Furthermore, on another positive note, Kim Yong-hwa's ("Oh! Brothers") work stays true to its joyful mood and doesn't shift into drama realms at the end, in contrast to many other movie's of the genre. Here, it's just a happy-life atmosphere that is supposed to take the viewer along with it, and it works out well. Also, there isn't even an attempt to convey a certain message or view point concerning beauty craze - or at least not directly.
Nevertheless, "200 Pounds Beauty" is everything but original and remains extremely predictable. There are only few scenes in which we can actually be made to believe that Jenny doesn't know anymore who she really is, since she is suffering from an identity crisis. But this is something you can turn a blind eye on. What's unforgiveable is the incredibly cheesy ending. The resolving comes with too much tears and a display of fireworks (literally) that is just too much to bear, decreasing the movie's overall quality enormously. It's all a bit too much and the filmmakers didn't even seem to care that there might actually be people out there, who aren't so easily to be deceived and manipulated by some honest words and sobbing.
Unfortunately, the comedy flick as a whole is never coherent. Many things on screen just look too random, contrived and
haphazard. For instance, there is one fan of Jenny who stands as a mirror image of Jenny's old self, then there is her dog
that suddenly ends up at Sang-jun's home, and of course there is also Ammy who seems to have nothing else to do, but
to stay at Han-na's father from morning to night, waiting for Han-na to show up, eventually. There is nearly no basic
framework to be found, and moreover some of the characters remain pretty shallow. What's really strange, however, is
that Joo Jin-mo, who plays the music producer, gives a shockingly one-dimensional performance. Somehow, we can never
relate to or sympathize with him and so the love story also never really gains any momentum. For this we are compensated
with Kim Hyeon-sook, who portrays Han-na's friend, and a few other side characters, that are integrated into the
movie quite well. But they still can't fill the big gap that the movie leaves open.
Star of the film is no one else than Kim Ah-jung, who stands out because of her natural beauty, but on the other hand she also depicts the artificiality of the plastic women created by Korean pop culture. It's fascinating and refreshing to see with how much self-confidence she makes fun of her own body, always throwing a wink at the audience. Even the more so at the beginning when we see her in a fat body suit a la Eddie Murphy in "The Nutty Professor".
However, it becomes really impressive when Kim Ah-jung starts to sing. This may be the first time for her, as she never sang professionally before, but her voice is really powerful and her skills are by far exceeding those of many so called K-Popstars! Thus, her "Blondie"- cover song "Maria" took the charts by storm in Korea, naturally. Therefore, lovers of music will get their treat, yet concerning this aspect the film is also not intrusive at all. If one would have done so concerning other aspects of the movie, too... Well, that would have been great, wouldn't it?
In the end "200 Pounds Beauty" fails to deliver what it could have been. That is because of its heavy kitsch-factor towards the end, some colorless characters and a weak script. It's praiseworthy that the movie doesn't try to convey some message like "inner beauty is what really counts", and besides that some of the jokes work out quite well, too, even if quantity-wise there could have been done more. However, ultimately the film just can't live up to the hype. The movie lacks that special something, which is exactly what one hoped to find here after all the words of praise from many a filmfan. Maybe this is also the reason why this review is especially critical, but this just reflects the disappointment of the writer of these lines.