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Original Title:
Eorin wangja

South Korea 2008


Choi Jong-hyeon

Tak Jae-hoon
Kang Soo-han
Jo An
Park Won-sang
Yu Hae-jin
Lee Ho-jae
Jeon Mu-song
Jeong Yoon-seok
Lee Yeong-ih

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Little Prince

Story: Jong-cheol (Tak Jae-hoon) is a foley artist and seldomly at home with his family. One day he gets a call. His wife and son have been killed in an accident. Jong-cheol, who has been a drinker before, now completely drowns his sorrow in alcohol. By chance he drives into another car shortly after where the little boy Yung-woong (Kang Soo-han) sits in. Even though the boy apparently wasn't harmed, he collapses. At the hospital Jong-cheol hears from the foster mother of the boy, Seon-ok (Jo An), that Yung-woong is terminally ill. The boy lives at some kind of orphanage and the following days Jong-cheol visits him for reasons unknown to himself. Soon a father-son relationship is building up between the broken man and the sick boy. Jong-cheol hopes to finally overcome his loss with the help of the boy and moreover doesn't want to miss the time he could have had with his own son once again. However, Yung-woong's condition gets worse by the day and Jong-cheol also finds out that there is a connection between this boy and his own son.

Review: If a movie uses the title of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's work then you have high expectations, naturally. The filmmakers should have been aware of that. In the end, though, we get nothing more than a tearjerking drama that might pick up aspects of the modern fairy tale every once in a while, but not its ethical or otherwise interesting elements - maybe with one exception. This way the film digs its own grave as the manipulative rollercoaster ride becomes even more insipid when you have the masterpiece of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry at the back of your mind than it would have usually been the case. Therefore, those who don't know the novel and thus can watch the movie without bias are lucky. Who knows, maybe to those people the film can even arouse interest in the novel. Although the impression might have been given here "Little Pince" is no bad drama, but simply a predictable one.

After an interesting action-loaden introduction that first leads us to believe that the protagonist is a teenage fighter pilot who has to face masked ninjas (doesn't this sound like a great B-movie production?) it turns out that the actual protagonist is just making the sounds for such movies. This initial shock is followed by the next one. The family of Jong-cheol dies in a car crash and this even before they have been really introduced in the movie. Instead they are given some screentime in "Little Prince" in the shape of flashbacks that are supposed to underline the suffering of the foley artist even more as the story progresses. But as fate sometimes takes strange paths he is involved in a small accident himself when he leaves his apartment in one of those few moments he has to go out and buy some more booze. This is also where the film's actual problem lies. You really need to have an extreme tolerance when it comes to accidents or you have to believe in fate, karma or something else in order not to be constantly rolling your eyes in disbelief.

Of all persons Jong-cheol meets a small boy who is dying. Ok, you can somehow dismiss it as God's will so that this lonely man can finally free himself of his torment and say goodbye to his family. Maybe he can now do the things right that he did wrong with his own family. In fact, he spends a lot of time with Yung-woong until he even doesn't leave his side anymore. However, when it later turns out there is a connection between the cardiac boy and his own son it's one of those moments you will roll your eyes. But it even gets worse and this is in no way a spoiler. Later on Jong-cheol finds his mobile and checks his voice mail which just happens to have a message from his wife who naturally just called him in the moment of dying! My goodness... You see, the filmmakers didn't leave out any chance to make the audience shed some tears, but they try to achieve that in such a manipulative way that you just have to laugh or shake your head about it.

Of course, there is also a little child, because a story around a fatally ill child is undoubtfully a lot more tragical than the illness-of-the-week an adult could be suffering from. Most people will be completely taken in by the little boy while mumbling "Well, isn't he cute!", anyway, and Kang Soo-han is quite the right character to achieve that. Still, it's also obvious that he is rather unexperienced concerning the acting job. Tak Jae-hoon sometimes lacks some color in his role, but eventually convinces as the loving family father. Jo An does only get little time on screen as Seon Ok, but we are thankful that there is no unnecessary love story between the two.
The movie's subject are broken families and therefore not only Jong-cheol has some demons to face. Seon-ok has to deal with some similar problems as well. Along with the boy waiting for his death this makes up a mix of dark and tragical topics which make "Little Prince" everything but a family movie even though at some points you get the feeling that it is just that.

Jong-cheol seems to be doing everything wrong everywhere he can. But his love towards Yung-woong is true and that makes him a good man. Sadly, it seems that the film just aimed for a compromise at the ending and didn't actually want to offer this man a real way of emotional closure. Some loose ends are simply dropped and that's unfortunate as additional motives like Jong-cheol's father could have offered room for more. On the other hand it has to be pointed out that "Little Prince" is merely a little over 90 minutes long which is unusual for a Korean drama and therefore doesn't have any lengths. The rather unsatisfying ending and the fact that the movie by no means should have used the title of the famous, almost magical novel make this drama a more or less average tearjerker. Most of all the blame for that goes to the filmmakers and their incredibly bold way to provoke some tears whereever possible. Anyway, they still might be successful with one or two individuals.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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