The Korea Herald


[Herald Review] ‘Dream,’ yet another ‘we did it’ sports film that lacks Lee Byeong-heon’s true colors

By Kim Da-sol

Published : April 20, 2023 - 18:21

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“Dream” (Plus M Entertainment) “Dream” (Plus M Entertainment)

“Dream,” the country’s third sports comedy film this year, was expected to be different for many reasons.

For one, it was director Lee Byeong-heon’s return after helming the country’s highest-grossing comedy, “Extreme Job” (2019). And the star-studded cast including Park Seo-joon and IU and approachable plot based on the real-life event 2012 World Homeless World cup added expectations for a strong comeback.

The plot rolls along quickly for the first 20 minutes, showing how Hong-dae (Park), a hot-tempered former soccer player, ended up coaching a group of homeless men who have never played soccer before.

But after a promising set-up, “Dream” fails to maintain its grip on the audience's attention for the rest of its 126 minutes. Like many other sports films, it falls into the trap of portraying the underdogs’ stories too dramatically.

Director Lee Byeong-heon of “Dream” speaks at the press conference held in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap) Director Lee Byeong-heon of “Dream” speaks at the press conference held in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

Lee told reporters during a press conference that this film was particularly difficult as it was a project from long ago. He was also keen to cover homelessness issues carefully. The film is being released eight years after it was conceived.

"I felt it was like a mission for me to resolve bias against (homeless people) and also felt like a homework to find the middle point to not to comically depict that part,” Lee said, adding that he is also curious about how the audience would view his new film.

The so-called "Lee Byeong-heon clique” -- Heo Joon-seok, Kim Jong-soo, Yang Hyun-min, Jung Seung-kil, Lee Hae-woon and Hong Wan-pyo -- does this pretty well. As with his previous hits “Extreme Job” and “Melo is My Nature,” Lee provides them with realistic lines and character buildup without exaggeration, and the actors make good use of the material, with naturalistic depictions of their characters.

The trouble seems to start with the two lead actors, both working with Lee for the first time. Park struggles to show his usual flair, and IU is lumbered with a role that doesn't play to her strengths.

“Dream” was shot before Hirokazu Kore-eda's award-winning “Broker,” so in a way, this is her first-ever film.

Her transition to the silver screen was a natural one after successful TV roles in “My Mister” (2018) and “Hotel del Luna” (2019).

But her role as a documentary producer Lee So-min, who follows Hong-dae’s team on its journey to the Homeless World Cup in Hungary, is a poor fit.

It does not help that her presence is diminished toward the end of the film, when So-min could have become a more multi-dimensional character and added spice to what, by then, is a flagging storyline.

“Dream” opens in theaters on April 26.

IU stars in “Dream” (Plus M Entertainment) IU stars in “Dream” (Plus M Entertainment)