The only thing that is more irritating than watching a film that is a complete disaster is to watch a movie and think “coulda shoulda woulda” throughout. To see the path that the director could have taken to really improve the material, and groan in bitter disappointment.
Director Lee Min-jae’s “The Odd Family: Zombie for Sale,” a rare zombie comedy film in Korean cinema, was one with several interesting attempts, clunky delivery and plenty of cliches. The glaring problem: It is just not that funny.
The film kicks off with a news exposition about a medicine with mysterious side-effects, with one such side effect escaping to a tiny, rural town. The zombie -- played by Jeong Ga-ram -- runs into a family of five, consisting of patriarch Man-deok -- played by Park In-hwan. his sons Jun-geol, Min-geol -- Jung Jae-young and Kim Nam-gil -- Jun-geol’s wife Nam-ju and Man-deok’s only daughter Hae-geol -- Uhm Ji-won and Lee Soo-kyung.
Most of the first act is devoted to the zombie’s strange behavior in a town that has simply no clue as to what zombies are, or any fear of them. The second act takes place after the father is bitten by the zombie -- named “Zongbie” by Hae-gol -- and the resulting bite has peculiar effects. The family develops a just as peculiar, almost family-like relationship with Zongbie, who they now treat like a child who is a little slow about everything.
The first hour and 20 minutes should have been the defining moments of the film, and it looks promising on paper. The zombie’s first interaction with the town folks is one of the legitimately funny moments, but the laughter diminishes considerably after that. I see what it is trying to do and the set-up is pretty clever in that it can easily lead to a big laugh, but the film keeps missing the mark.
There are no terrible actors in the cast, but their performances are far too generic and predictable to add much comedy or drama. The overacting by Jung and Kim is almost unbearable, and Uhm’s awkwardly ominous character is far too familiar. The development of the romance between Jung’s zombie and Lee’s Hae-geol feels forced.
It’s not with just these two. Overall, the film tries to force heart-warming or funny moments, rather than creating them smoothly as part of the film and earning the laughs.
Cheesy lines, inconsistency in depiction of the zombie and not making sense are all excused – it’s a comedy after all.
But this all goes back to the film’s crucial flaw: it is a comedy that is not funny. On top of that, it has small cliches -- a pregnant woman in a hazardous situation, for example – which could add tention in a better directed film, but is just annoying here.
In the third act, however, the film turns things around a bit. The part where all goes to hell is when it gets really crazy and “out-there.” It still isn’t top-notch, but it’s fun and the annoying brothers do get some laughs here.
The rest of the film should have been like the third act: crazy and absurd. There is even one scene toward the end with one zombie on a rooftop that felt really creative and pretty funny; even though I believe it would’ve been funnier if directed better.
Overall, it is not a particularly entertaining film. It has its moments, particularly near the end, but the part leading up to it is painfully obvious. It had some bright ideas, but the fact that this is Lee’s directorial debut shows in the film’s clunky delivery.
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org