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[MOVIE REVIEW] `Gold Digger` buffs Han`s charm, but misses

In "Gold Digger Miss Shin (Yonguijudo Miss Shin)," Han Ye-seul dominates the running time -- for 98 percent, to be exact -- as a likable beauty who compares and contrasts four different potential Mr. Rights.
But the movie`s heroine Shin Mi-su played by Han is not an original character. Rather it`s a combination of Kim A-jung, who hit it big early this year with "200 Pound Beauty" featuring herself as a symbol of transformation through plastic surgery, and Jun Ji-hyun, who represents a cranky yet enchanting beauty, as showcased in the classic romantic comedy "My Sassy Girl."
When Shin puts on chic dresses and sexy club outfits, she looks like Kim A-jung`s after-surgery version. And when Shin throws up something unmentionable to a man after heavy drinking, she seems to imitate what Jun Ji-hyun did to Cha Tae-hyun in the notorious subway scene.
But Han Ye-seul is neither Kim A-jung nor Jun Ji-hyun. All three of the actresses are regarded as similarly iconic beauties in the country`s entertainment industry, but placing Han`s big-screen debut squarely between Kim and Jun does not help her cut an original character.
Instead of cultivating a unique character, director Park Yong-jib focuses on the personal charm of Han Ye-seul, who tiptoes, runs, screams and stumbles to flesh out a highly stereotyped Shin Mi-su, who is juggling shaky relationships with four different men in order to catch the ideal spouse.
Shin Mi-su, an up-and-coming advertising specialist, is keen to attract a superrich chaebol family member (played by Kwon Oh-jung) by doing some volunteer work in a bid to accentuate her angelic image.
But she does not bet on a single candidate. One of her hedges is a bespectacled, dorky student (Kim In-kwon) who is preparing to pass the state bar exam -- a quick gateway to wealth and power in Korea. She constantly eggs and nudges him to study hard to pass the exam. Her devotion to such a long-term investment has a clear purpose: to become a wife of a powerful prosecutor.
At the same time, Shin half-heartedly hangs out with a handsome rapper (Son Ho-yeong, former singer of the top music group G.O.D.), just for fun.
The relationships become complicated when Shin encounters a fourth contender (Lee Jong-hyeok), a neighbor in the same apartment complex who happens to hold the key to one of her advertising projects.
As the storyline unabashedly revolves around Shin`s quest for an ideal man, the camera hardly moves away from her to the four male characters, who are largely treated as mere sidekicks.
So the question is how Shin`s "one-woman show" is incorporated into the simplistic plot, and the general impression is that Shin is a character that is at least hard to hate. The decisive factor is Han`s willingness to embrace even screwball and slapstick gags, counterbalancing the sugarcoated screen shots stressing her shining beauty.
But since her devil-may-care acts are exaggerated too much too often, Shin fails to produce the much-needed genuine comic relief. The real laughter often comes from a sidelined male character, notably the chaebol family member. Kwon Oh-jung`s restrained yet hilarious depiction of the wealthy guy with a hand fetish is bound to hit the funny bone of audiences bored with Shin`s endless on-screen fashion show.
But what`s really laughable involves the film`s shambolic product placement. In the film, a sizable amount of precious screen time is devoted to KTF, a major mobile phone company.
Even considering that the film`s distributor Sidus FHN is owned by KT, a telecom giant which also controls KTF, the film goes far beyond usual product placement norms to the annoyance of audiences. It features the mobile carrier`s third-generation service extensively and repeatedly -- going the opposite way of successful product placement`s subtle and unobtrusive techniques.
There is even a horrifying scene where Shin reads the exact PR materials for KTF`s "Show" brand in the name of demonstrating her presentation skills in front of the telecom carrier`s executives. It`s nothing more than a pathetic `show` for local moviegoers who have already been bombarded with the same KTF advertisements in recent months.
So here`s a revised summary of the movie: In "Gold Digger Miss Shin," Han Ye-seul and KTF`s not-so-funny product placement jointly dominate the running time of 108 minutes.
By Yang Sung-jin