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South Korea 2023

Comedy, Romance

Ma Dae-yun

Kwon Sang-woo
Lee Min-jung
Oh Jung-se
Park So-yi
Kim Jun

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Story: Park Kang (Kwon Sang-woo) is an extremely successful actor who repeatedly becomes a talking point because of his scandals. Luckily, his long-time friend and manager Jo Yoon (Oh Jung-se) is usually on hand with help and advice, and this time he helps him out too. On Christmas Eve, the two have a drink in a bar and Park Kang finds out that his old flame Soo-hyeon (Lee Min-jung) is in town for an exhibition. Ten years ago, he broke up with her in order to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. When he gets into a cab that evening, the driver asks him if he is happy with his life. The next morning, the actor wakes up in an unfamiliar house. Soo-hyeon seems to be his wife and he even has two kids, Ro-hee (Park So-yi) and Ro-ha (Kim Jun). It takes him a good while to get his bearings. But after he convinced himself that someone else lives in his apartment and that no one recognizes him on the street, he has to come to terms with the fact that, in this life, he is still doing third-rate performances on the theater stage. He visits his friend Jo Yoon, who seems to have switched places with him and is a star now. Ten years ago, he supposedly let Jo Yoon go first at an audition and also prevented Soo-hyeon from going abroad, which is why his life in this world turned out quite differently. While he is initially overwhelmed, especially with the children, Kang slowly starts to appreciate the benefits of his new life.

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Review: "Switch" seems so familiar after the first few minutes that it almost feels like a waste of time to even give the movie a chance at all. Not only the plot is generally well-known ("Family Man" with Nicolas Cage from 2000 probably served as the main inspiration here), but a lot of nostalgia and Christmas spirit is used as well in order to make the flick a bit more heartwarming. You mostly don't quite know in which direction the movie tries to go, although it's completely obvious what the finale has in store for us. So, while the way the movie gets there is a bit bumpy, the good performances and the chemistry between the characters often manage to let us forget all of that and we are actually quite entertained in the end. As a comedy, the flick also works quite well, even though there are not that many real laughs, instead the focus lies more on a light-hearted atmosphere with lovable characters.

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The introduction doesn't last too long, yet the characters are presented thoroughly enough so that we get a good picture of them. This is important because Kang obviously changes in his new life (into a better person, of course), but also because we can see how different characters like Yoon are in this new reality. It's also refreshing to see Kang getting thrown into his sudden family life, slowly getting used to it and - how else could it be - learning to love it. Lee Min-jung ("Cyrano Agency") as the assertive mother, who is also the breadwinner of the family, immediately sets the tone and breathes life into the movie. The same can be said about the young actors, but especially Park So-yi ("Pawn") is once more able to win us over with her charisma.

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At home, everything is pretty chaotic thanks to the kids and Kang's career, which doesn't really get going. But it's the kind of chaos that's just fun to watch and symbolizes pure life. Kwon Sang-woo ("Accidental Detective") as the lead is allowed to show his full range of emotions, which is also due to the fact that "Switch" repeatedly includes small scenes from a drama series about the royal court that is being shot. Even though some scenes are designed to make fun of the dramatic aspect of shows like these, a few of the sequences, such as the hero's death, are very convincing too and even manage to touch us. Here, "Switch" itself is also mirrored in an interesting way, as a single scene is enough to remind us of similar works and manages to evoke nostalgic feelings. And that's what this comedy does consistently - it draws on well-known stories and retells them in a convincing way, but without adding a special touch.

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Maybe the tiny meta-level can be described as an innovative aspect, though. At least it gives Oh Jung-se ("Swing Kids") the chance to show a completely different side of the hero's friend, as he is now the star who took Kang's place, and with that Oh often manages to outshine the movie's other good performances. As mentioned before, though, the good performances and the excellent chemistry between the actors are also bitterly needed, because the movie otherwise wanders around aimlessly, especially in the middle, and jokes are also used rather sparingly. At least, there is no unnecessary slapstick. The ending, on the other hand, is so predictable that you cannot help but simply roll your eyes. Of course, there is also a romance in this comedy and some repeated drama too, which clearly has to get more intense towards the end, but this is not at all the movie's problem. In fact, it's far less cheesy than you would have expected. Instead, it's the almost terrifying lack of originality that poses a problem.

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At the same time, this also means that the movie cannot do much wrong. If you're looking for a typical Christmas miracle as the starting point of a heartwarming dramedy, you simply can't do much wrong here. But anyone who has already seen one or two movies like thid will constantly have a feeling of déjà vu. In the end, "Switch" has no right to be as entertaining as it actually is, but once more this just goes to show how much a movie can benefit from the right cast. In addition, this comedy doesn't try to be more than just a simple family movie showing once more that there is more to life than just money. The way "Switch" approaches the definition of happiness isn't boring either - not least thanks to the actors, who are obviously having fun. If you're in the right mood, "Switch" is able to put a quick smile on your face despite its lack of originality.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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