Surprise is always crucial for comedy, but there is not much surprise for me in South Korean comedy film “Honest Candidate 2”, a sequel to the 2020 South Korean remake of Brazilian comedy film “The Honest Candidate” (2014). I could see how much its good main cast members try to sell their comic materials on the screen, but, alas, they are not helped much by the tediously repetitive screenplay which simply resorts to predictable laughs, and I soon got tired and bored with lots of disappointment while watching the film during this evening.
The story begins at the point not long after what happened at the end of the previous film. After her political career was seriously ruined mainly thanks to her sudden inability to tell lies, Joo Sang-sook (Ra Mi-ran) returned to a seaside town in Gangwon-do where she once lived with her grandmother, and it looks like she will spend the rest of life there as working in a fish market, but then something unbelievable happens on one day. When some local lad is suddenly thrown into a serious danger, she boldly comes to rescue him, and that incident soon puts her back in spotlight as she is showered with lots of public attention.
As a result, Sang-sook swiftly makes a successful comeback as getting elected as the new governor of Gangwong-do, and she is quite determined to be more honest and trustful than before, but, not so surprisingly, her determination does not last that long as she is reminded again of how complicated it is to run the state government. In the end, she decides to step back a little for the benefit of the people of the state, and, not so surprisingly, that leads to more compromise and cynicism she comes to accept without much hesitation.
And then another unexpected thing occurs to Sang-sook. When she is doing her latest public event for making her all the more popular, she comes to experience something mysterious involved with her grandmother, and, what do you know, she subsequently finds herself incapable of lying just like she was in the previous film. To make matters worse, one of several figures closely associated with her also happens to have the same problem for some reason, and that certainly makes the situation more complicated for her and that figure in question.
This may look like a fun variation of the story promise of the previous film, but the movie only goes for easy laughs without fully developing its supposedly funnier comic circumstance. For example, we certainly expect something outrageous to happen when Sang-sook is going to make a speech in the middle of a very important wedding ceremony, and the movie surely attempts to generate some laughs as Sang-sook struggles not to say anything inappropriate, but the delivery of these laughs are so perfunctory and unsurprising that we are just mildly amused by what is supposed to be the punchline of the scene.
In addition, it seems that the movie often does not seem to know how to build up its heroine’s absurd comic situation. When Sang-sook inadvertently causes a diplomatic crisis between South and North Korea at one point, the movie looks like going for edgier laughs, but this subplot eventually gets fizzled, and the movie comes to focus more on how Sang-sook subsequently tries to clean up her public image in addition to fighting against certain greedy figures ready to get rid of her as soon as possible. Again, our heroine comes to have another important awakening on what is really important for her, and it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that she will triumphantly overcome her obstacles as usual.
However, the movie does not provide much fun or excitement even during that part. The main villains of its story are so broad and cartoonish that it is a shame that their eventual comeuppance comes too easily during the finale, and several supporting characters surrounding Sang-sook are also more or less than silly caricatures who do not show much of recognizable human behaviors. As many of you know, recognizable human behaviors are always an excellent source for good comedy, and I think director Chang You-jeong, who also directed the previous film, unfortunately overlooks this important thing here in this film.
Anyway, I still admire the diligent efforts from Ra Mi-ran, who has quickly risen as one of the leading actresses in South Korean cinema thanks to her good comic performance in the previous film. While she is mostly stuck with clumsy gags and trite jokes, Ra goes all the way like a trouper, and she actually makes a few big scenes in the film look a bit funnier than expected. She can surely handle any comic moment with deft timing, and I will not deny that I chuckled a bit when her character tries a rather ingenious way to tell lies in front of a bunch of international reporters.
In case of several other main cast members in the film, they try as much as they can do with their cardboard roles, and they manage to acquit themselves to varying degrees. While Kim Mu-yeol clicks fairly well with Ra during their several big scenes in the movie, Yoon Kyung-ho and Park Jin-joo are sadly demanded to do lots of clownish stuffs throughout the film, and you may find their characters rather annoying instead of endearing.
Overall, “Honest Candidate 2” does not surpass the comic highlights of its predecessor. Yes, I did not like “Honest Candidate” enough for recommendation, but it did make me chuckle more than once during its first half, and I think you will be more entertained if you see “Honest Candidate” again instead of enduring this middling sequel.
Sidenote: After watching “Honest Candidate 2”, I immediately watched “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952), which happens to be re-released in South Korea in this week. Believe me, you will have a lot more laugh and entertainment from this great Hollywood musical comedy film.