Lady Gaga has A Star Is Born and Jung Jin-young (member of K-pop boy group B1A4) has The Dude In Me – a flamboyant body swap comedy. Having already performed well at the South Korean box office at the start of the year, The Dude In Me hopes to charm international audiences into seats with the premise of a middle-aged mob boss suddenly finding himself in the body of an introverted, chubby teenager.
A mysterious restaurateur decides to intervene in gangster Jang Pan-soo’s (Park Sung-woong) life of crime by placing him in the right place at the right time. So, when Kim Dong-hyun (Jung) falls from a rooftop (a fatal misstep when retrieving a stolen shoe from bullies) he lands directly on top of Pan-soo. The mob boss wakes up, but he doesn’t recognise his body, and no one recognises him.
Whilst Dong-hyun, now within the older man’s body, is trapped in a coma, Pan-soo must try to manage the chaos unfolding in his crime organisation whilst donning a school uniform and being a son to a man he has never met.
One of Pan-soo’s biggest challenges in Dong-hyun’s body is managing the overweight teen’s ambitious appetite. To physically present the kid, Jung begins the film wearing a fat suit and facial prosthetics. As he is greeted with a deluge of weight-related quips, he certainly doesn’t look like the heart-throb fans of his music have come to recognise.
But the filmmaking team knew what they were doing when they cast a handsome popstar in the lead role. In order to do the real Dong-hyun a favour and deal with the bullies at school, Pan-soo decides to participate in a training montage to get his new, chunky body in shape. As per expectations, a new Dong-hyun – with a lean torso and defined cheekbones – emerges. This transformation ought to have been expected. Christopher Nolan wasn’t going to cast Harry Styles in Dunkirk to have him be unrecognisable behind prosthetics or a gas mask. The same was not going to happen here, either.
Jung does a convincing job of pretending to be Park playing Pan-soo trapped in Dong-hyun’s body. The performance is a solid effort that never distracts from or undermines the screenplay’s humour. When Pan-soo eventually wakes up, experienced actor Park is able to join the game in good form as the teenager in a middle-aged body.
The foundations of the body swap comedy are firm. Where The Dude In Me may begin to lose the audience is in its over-the-top story. Trapped in the teenager’s body, Pan-soo unexpectedly reunites with his first love. There are further twists and turns that involve a paternity test, an excessive number of combat scenes and a disturbing potential romance. Pre-judgements are rarely helpful but knowing that a body swap comedy never needs to be two-hours long was mildly prophetic. But there is no denying that The Dude In Me is a lot of fun, albeit the type of fun that overstays its welcome. Edited and scored like a Paul Feig comedy, UK audiences will feel at home in this South Korean take on a popular genre.
The Dude in Me was screened at LFF on the 9th October. It will also have further screenings on the 10th and 13th
by Rahul Patel
Rahul Patel is a freelance writer covering Film and Television. His favourite films include When Harry Met Sally and Shrek 2. His special skill is knowing the complex Emmys rules. Follow him on Twitter @RahulReviews (if you’re brave enough).