Edited by Yang Young Jun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
It fully showed the potential and charm of singer Park Chanyeol, not “EXO” Chaneyeol. But this alone is not enough. In The Box, Chanyeol’s music and performance were impressive, but the rest only left behind disappointments.
Ji Hoon was born with musical talent. But he has a fatal weakness of “stage phobia” that makes it impossible for him to sing in front of others. The one person who recognizes his potential is Min Soo. Min Soo is a has-been producer who once produced star singers but now is only left with a pile of debts. Wanting to regain his past glories, Min Soo makes an unconventional offer to Ji Hoon: sing inside a box so that audience can’t see him. After Ji Hoon promises to put on 10 performances, the two of them travel all over the country.
As its theme, “busking-road movie,” suggests, music is the most important topic in the movie. He may have been burdened about taking on the lead role, but Chanyeol’s performance is definitely better than expected. From Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars,” and Chet Baker’s “My Funny Valentine” to trot songs, Chanyeol showcases attractive performances regardless of genre with his unique baritone tone. These moments, where you can see the potential and charm of singer Chanyeol, not K-pop idol Chanyeol, are enough to entertain the audience’s eyes and ears.
Some trusty artists help out Chanyeol’s performance. Dynamic Duo’s Gaeko and Aancod, who recently gained fame for the “Gyodae Station One Candle” video, play at least one song. They shine their presence despite the short appearance. The musical-like moments created by director Yang Jung Woong, who established a solid foothold in the theater circles, are combined with soundtracks by music director Ecobridge to enhance the musical perfection. It makes you feel as if you were watching a music video. So for Chanyeol’s fans, The Box will be like a gift basket that allows them to enjoy various sides of Chanyeol.
However, if you look at this work as a “movie,” there are clear letdowns. Ji Hoon and Min Soo live inside their respective “boxes” of stage fright and debt. Their journey of breaking away from their shackles was expected to give its own unique impressions and lingering feelings even though it may seem familiar. Unfortunately, however, the elements that should support the film’s storytelling were weak. And the movie’s charm is halved as it tries to fill the gap with cliches or scenes that have nothing to do with the plot.
First of all, it is difficult to immerse yourself in stories and characters. Min Soo recognizes Ji Hoon’s musical talent in the first half of the movie after listening to Ji Hoon’s guitar performance inside his parking lot maintenance office. Let’s say, Min Soo, who used to be a popular producer, recognized Ji Hoon’s potential with such a short performance. For the audience, however, it is difficult to understand how Ji Hoon can excel in completely different genres such as jazz, pop, and trot with that one short moment. Rather than simply listing 10 performance scenes around the country, it would have been better if Ji Hoon’s genius were seen here and there. Or at least, the scenes that showed Ji Hoon practicing his songs would have allowed for a better story flow. The moments where Ji Hoon vents out his anger or displays his emotions doubles the awkwardness, hindering immersion.
It is also regrettable that unnecessary explanations are spotted constantly. The process of reaching Busan through Incheon Chinatown, Jeonju, Gwangju, and Yeosu is a never-ending repeat of “Oh, we need to eat XX at XX” and laying out the performance streets’ history. These are the points when you doubt that the work is a “busking-road movie.” Of course, it is not a bad choice to show each region’s food and unique attractions as they travel many place. But it is somewhat questionable whether they had to solve everything with lines and excessive food close-ups. The feeling of unfamiliarity is another bonus.
As Chanyeol confirmed his enlistment and his absence from official activities for some time, The Box will be a valuable gift for Chanyeol’s fans. The movie won’t be a bad choice for the audience who wants to enjoy the remake of famous artists’ masterpieces. However, if you are looking for music films with high perfection in music and stories and characters, you will have to rethink.
Verdict: Only Chanyeol stood out (4/10)
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.