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Papa - Movie Poster
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South Korea 2012

Comedy, Drama

Han Ji-seung

Park Yong-woo
Go Ah-ra
Michael MacMillan
Meg Kelly
Angela Azar
Parker Townsend
Peyton Townsend
Yoon Seung-hoon
Son Byeong-ho

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Story: Talent manager Choon-seob (Park Yong-woo) has some serious problems as his client disappeared to America and he can't find her anywhere. Because of this big trouble awaits him in Korea. Thus, he visits an old friend of his and asks her to marry him for money, since his residence permit is soon to expire and he would have to leave America. As it isn't the first time for her to do something like this she accepts. Shortly afterwards she dies in an accident, though, and Choon-seob is confronted with the task of taking care of her partly adopted children if he doesn't want to get deported. June (Go Ah-ra) is the oldest of them and is about to come of age the following year, which is why she makes clear right away that Choon-seon should simply follow her lead until then. However, Choon-seob isn't up to the challenge of looking after a bunch of six new family members and is desperately looking for a solution. When he hears June sing at the church he knows that he hit the jackpot with her, though. Now he only needs to talk her into participating in a talent contest. But this proves to be not that easy since June isn't aspiring to be a singer or anything like that at all.

Review: It's fully evident from the get-go what "Papa" wants to be. A somewhat clichéloaden family movie, which has its heart at the right spot. Accordingly you also need to endure some melodrama and sweet-as-candy children, if you want to rejoice in the cozy warmth of this film in the end. This being noted beforehand there definitely will be an audience that can't warm up to "Papa", but those who are still interested despite the title and the cover shouldn't have any problems with the weaknesses of the movie. That is even more the case since the comedy for most part works out pretty well and can be touching, too, if you aren't completely made of ice. Put all that aside the movie is unnecessarily made worse than it needed to be by some of the amateur actors. At least the featured English sounds right this time.

Papa - Film Screenshot 11

Apart from family there is also music standing in the foreground of the story. Go Ah-ra isn't just a convincing singer, but she can also dance and act. What's also laudable is Go not sounding like so many of those Korean pop music clones showing artificial emotional passion while singing, but instead sounds authentic and really good. Furthermore, she also shows a more female way of hip hop dancing, meaning that at least in this respect there is breaking with clichés. Accordingly, there also aren't any corny ballads, but instead you get songs that will put you in a good mood. This is in fact a good start, but that's also all there is concerning clichés being avoided. Go Ah-ra can at least bestow some believable emotions upon her character, which is written rather mediocre, making us hope that we will get to see more of her in the future.

Papa - Film Screenshot 12

Moreover, the main actress is also a multitalent in respect to her English, which is almost on a par with that of a native speaker. Park Yong-woo ("Children", "Blood Rain") on the other hand doesn't even try. Instead he is the one who manages to make the most of his role. Therefore, he succeeds in gaining our sympathy towards the end. Apart from that he is just a moving cliché after all. He is a selfish con artist who is forced to slowly grow into the role of a father, eventually learns the true value of family and at the end defends latter one even through self-sacrifice. Certainly there isn't anything spoiled here because it's fully aparent from the get-go how the story will turn out. There is not a single surprise that would in any way break with well-known patterns.

Despite the predictability, which makes the biggest flaw of "Papa", the movie's message is praiseworthy of course, but better had been wrapped in less kitsch. Furthermore, it remains a real mystery how this off-beat melting pot that calls itself family came to be. The actors weren't that carefully chosen either to say the least. Especially the small children, and among them particularly the rapping twins, prove to be a a real test for your nerves at times. Michael MacMillan as the oversized teddy bear, who learned Korean through a drama show and thus talks like a court lady, has a few nice moments, but he still isn't giving a convincing performance. Meg DeLacy (or Meg Kelley) as quiet Maya seems more promising, but in the end we get to see too little from her.

Papa - Film Screenshot 13

Director Han Ji-seung ("Venus and Mars") walks down a safe path and every now and then throws in some obstacles which need to be overcome by the family working as a team. This leads to tears and sacrifices being made, but at the bottom line "Papa" is without a doubt a movie that leaves you with a positive mood at the end, which is also the achievement of the music and the likeable albeit extremely one-dimensional characters. The pictures are colorful, the jokes nice, but no light without shadow. If you can live with a sketchy written screenplay and the predictability as well as a little bit too much sugar-coating at times you will get a family film that will wrap you in cozy cotton wool and will simply make you feel good. On the other hand this makes "Papa" a soon to be forgotten affair as well.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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