Christine Yoo's directorial debut, Wedding Palace, which opened the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival in 2011, is one of those films you wish you could root for despite its obvious problems.
It has moments of real charm and a likable lead in Brian Tee (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift). But the cross-cultural rom com about a Korean American's search for true love is marred by serious overacting, broad characterization, flat comedic skits. It tries too hard, like a comic who's the one laughing hardest at his jokes.
A sort of Big Not-So-Chubby Korean Wedding, the film stars Tee as Jason Kim, an advertising executive under tremendous pressure to marry before he turns 30. (He'll die if he doesn't, a family legend holds.)
Then, just months away from his birthday, Jason is dumped at the altar. Convinced he needs a radical break, he goes back to the motherland in search of peace, quiet - and a little love.
He finds the latter in spades when he meets a lonely looking Na Young Song (Kang Hye-Jung) singing alone at a karaoke bar - on the night before his flight back home to Los Angeles.
The couple carry on a long-distance courtship via phone, text, and video chat. Yoo pulls out all the stops, using music, animation and other cutesy trickery to convey the couple's growing love.
Things are going swimmingly until Jason's sweetheart comes to town to meet the family.
She looks completely - utterly, shockingly, strangely, creepily - different from the person Jason fell for. (Hint, he's only seen her while she was sitting down.)
But love conquers all.
Sadly, Yoo's film does not.
Wedding Palace ** (out of four stars)
Directed by Christine Yoo. With Brian Tee, Hye-jeong Kang, Bobby Lee, Jean Yoon. Distributed by GoGoGo Entertainment. In Korean with English subtitles.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 mins.
Parent's guide: Not rated (profanity, adult themes, )
Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse