Edited by Yang Young Jun
Translated by Jeon Gyeong Ju
‘Wait, isn’t it just Liar Liar?’ Many people might have first thought so when they watched a trailer of Honest Candidate. Indeed, that sort of reaction is understandable. Although the film is a remake of the same-titled Brazilian movie (O Candidato Honesto), you will naturally recall Liar Liar (1997), featured by Jim Carrey’s great one-man show, rather than the No. 1 hit in the Brazilian box office if you are asked to mention a “movie about a person who suddenly becomes unable to lie.” Even the Brazilian original version is said to have been “inspired” by Liar Liar, so Honest Candidate inevitably stands to be compared with the latter.
Ra Mi Ran, the lead actor of Honest Candidate, must have felt as much pressure as the production crew due to this comparison. Who is her opponent? It’s Jim Carrey, the man who is called the king of comedy and the great actor. To begin with a conclusion, however, Ra Mi Ran’s performance is attractive enough to dispel those concerns. Without a need for the modifiers like “The Korean Jim Carrey,” Ra Mi Ran is the alpha and omega of Honest Candidate. She led the film through her own charms and strengths, and further demonstrated her money-making potential as a one-top lead actor. Director Jang Yoo Jung, who even changed gender of the main character to cast Ra Mi Ran, seems to have successfully fulfilled her scheme.
The “Ra-Mi-Ran-labeled comedy” is already a proven “check for guaranteeing success.” Her unique, open-handed and flavorful humor has always boasted high batting average in any genres, from television dramas such as Reply 1988 and Rude Miss Young Ae to movies and entertainment shows. Honest Candidate is also a comedy that can be brought to life only by Ra Mi Ran and makes the audience laugh all the time. It’s easy to enjoy this movie comfortably because the subject is simple and well-described with the lines and the situations. While Ra Mi Ran’s presence is absolute in Honest Candidate, which deserves to be called a “one-top movie,” it would have been difficult for Ra to shine so brightly if there had not been the full support of Kim Moo Yeol and Yoon Kyung Ho, as an old Korean saying goes, “Even a clap can make a sound when two palms meet each other.” The teamwork of these three actors is a laughing point of Honest Candidate.
Since the presence of the one-top actor is so great, on the other way, Honest Candidate would’ve struggled with its lower popularity if there hadn’t been Ra Mi Ran at all. This is totally a matter of scenario. Without going far, just think of Extreme Job, the mega hit comedy attracting 10 million viewers to the theatres last year. One of the strengths of Extreme Job was a concise plot of “the crime investigation of police detectives.” Speaking personally, the choice of focusing on humor with a simplified story to fit the comedy genre has greatly helped the box office success of Extreme Job. On the other hand, Honest Candidate mixed too many stories―including a satire on Korean politics, corruption in private schools and family dramas―with each other in the film.
Even though the Brazilian original film also tried to put many stories in the piece, the creators of Honest Candidate should have kept in their mind that some plots would be relieved by reinterpreting them within the Korean sentiments. They should’ve especially done so, considering the recent cases in which some Korean genre films failed in the box office after being greedy. With the need to emphasize humor stemming from the fantastic situation of being unable to lie, the so-called “side branches” have become a fatal weakness of Honest Candidate, making the movie itself far from both its strengths and what Honest Candidate really wanted to say. The most regrettable part of this film is that the story gets more distracting and weaker as it runs toward the end.
Honest Candidate is a Korean comedy that I could laugh in peace after a long time. Its humor is very enough to amuse viewers. Nonetheless, it is hard to erase the idea that this is the result of only relying on the teamwork of Ra Mi Ran and the other actors. If the script was as light and pleasant as Ra’s performance, at least I wouldn’t say, “the only memorable thing in this movie is the [main] actor.”
Verdict: The story would be better if it wasn’t too much dramatized, but it’s good enough only thanks to Ra Mi Ran’s unrivaled presence. (6/10)
Editor Yang Young Jun: There is at least one good part in every movie or TV series. A media geek who isn’t picky with genres.