Korean Movie Review – Born to Sing (전국노래자랑)

You may not know this about me, but I have the voice of angel. The lucky few who’ve heard my inner Mariah usually witness it around 4 a.m. when most bars have closed and the noraebang begins to beckon. Despite my mad skills, I have never considered entering one of the many talent shows that populate today’s TV schedules, a quandary at the heart of Lee Jong-pil’s “Born to Sing” (2012).

When the famous TV show “Born to Sing” comes to town, all of Gimhae goes singing crazy and everyone wants a piece of the action. The film focuses on a bevy of locals with varying levels of talent: First, there’s Bong-nam (Kim In-kwon), a once-talented rock star whose dreams have passed him by. Equally passionate is love-struck Hyun-ja (Lee Cho-hee), who wants any reason to spend time with co-worker Dong-soo (Yoo Yeon-seok), or the grandfather (Oh Hyun-kyung) who wants to connect with his feisty granddaughter Bo-ri (Kim Hwan-hee). Even the town’s mayor, Joo Ha-na (Kim Soo-mi), wants in on the action in an attempt to boost her popularity for an upcoming election.

But while it might be a dream for some, it’s a nightmare for others. Bong-nam is so desperate to become a singer that his wife throws him out of the house for lying about entering the show. Hyun-ja is crippled by shyness, which is nearly as bad as Mayor Ha-na, who can’t sing at all. Using a tried-and-true formula in both the fiction and documentary genres, the film keeps things charming while we develop a fondness for each hapless character.

Overall, the movie’s premise banks on the fact that most people are at least somewhat familiar with “American Idol”–style TV franchises, but it’s stories like this and “One Chance” (2013) that remind us that the contestant pool includes more than simply fame-hungry wannabes. Much like “Dancing Queen” (2012), you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and no doubt you’ll enjoy seeing some of these interesting characters as they try and make their dreams come true. I know I did, and it inspired me to finally share my gift with the world. That’s right, time to practice: “Yogi-yo! Soju han byeong juseyo!”


Categories: Reviews


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