Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Movie Review: A Werewolf Boy (2012)




Grade: A-

A Werewolf Boy is no Twilight.

I mean that in the best way possible—in spite of the comparisons you may read elsewhere, Korea’s lycanthropic yarn is no easy wish-fulfillment love story. In truth, it shares more DNA with Frankenstein or Edward Scissorhands, those classic, bittersweet explorations of what happens when feral innocence meets the jaded experience of the modern world.

A hit that has spent more than five weeks on top of the Korean box office, Werewolf Boy is a study in contrasts—storybook and reality, past and present, wild and tame. Its tone is matter-of-fact and everyday, but tinged with a nostalgic, fairytale glow that bears the faintest resemblance to the work of Tim Burton.

One thing that’s probably sold a lot of this movie’s tickets is its star: heartthrob Song Joon Ki, whose celebrated KBS drama Nice Guy finished airing just last month. Song, always a scene stealer, ably brings to life the titular wolf in spite of remaining silent throughout almost the entire film. He uses his body and eyes to tell the character’s story instead of words, and transforms into a guileless, unspoiled human with all the tendencies of a wolf. (Or maybe it’s the other way around?)

But as fun as it is to see flower-boy Song Joon Ki playing fetch like the family dog, this movie is really the story of his master, a sickly young woman named Suni (Park Bo Yeong), whose family moves to the countryside on the orders of her doctor. As in every great creature feature, they find more than they expect there: the family is quickly swept up in the dark history of their new home with the discovery of a dirty, starving boy running wild on the property.

Awkward and isolated, Suni is a girl desperately in need of a friend. And that’s exactly what she gets when her softhearted mother decides to care for the strange boy until local officials can find a home for him. Christened Chul Soo, the name Suni’s parents had intended for the son that never arrived, he needs Suni just as much as she needs him—he doesn’t know how to speak or wash, and he eats with the single-minded, violent abandon of an animal.



Suni slowly domesticates Chul Soo with the help of a long-forgotten dog training manual, earning his eternal devotion in the process. The chaste, not-quite-romance that develops between them is tender and heartbreaking: He sleeps like a guard dog outside her bedroom door; she stands in the path of a bullet for him.

Sweet and sad, cute and funny, A Werewolf Boy tells the story of two damaged people coming together in spite of the misgivings of the world around them. It’s an old-fashioned monster movie that knows the truth—the real abomination isn’t the mysterious, super-strong boy with no blood type and a body temperature of 115 degrees. Instead, it’s the society that reacts to someone who’s different with fear and cruelty.

We first meet Suni as a seemingly contented grandmother who’s hiding a hole in her heart. That’s how we say goodbye to her, too, but in the intervening scenes she’s learned important lesson: Even over the course of a human lifetime, some things can never be lost, like beauty. And love.

***

A Werewolf Boy is now playing in select theaters throughout North America (according to some sources, complete with a never-before-seen alternate ending). For more information, see the official site.

Reviewed for Soompi.com. (Thank you, Susan!)


Random Thoughts


• So apparently the American release of this movie has an alternate ending. This is pretty logical—it’s been out in Korea for a while, so an enterprising person could probably download a bootleg of that version. On the other hand, I think I can see what they added, and I would have liked the movie even more without it.

• A word to the wise: Don’t do a Google image search for the phrase “werewolf boy.” Just take my word for it.

• If a little werewolf problem was the only thing standing between me and a lifetime of adoration from Song Joon Ki, I think I could make it work. After all, I’m pretty cranky a few days a month, too.

• Dear creators of Werewolf Boy:

How about a 16-episode drama adaptation? If the guy who wrote and directed the movie is busy, might I suggest the team behind Padam, Padam? I’d send in a CV myself, but I’m not sure you could afford me.

Sincerely,
Amanda

18 comments:

  1. Hmmm.. This sounds like something I would watch.. Been eye-balling it for a while with a slightly skeptical feeling. But since it's SJK.. and it doesn't sound you absolutely hated it, might give it a go.

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    1. I was surprised how much I liked this movie, actually. I guess in a way it is like Twilight...it seamlessly incorporates the supernatural into everyday life, which is right up my alley.

      And Song Joon Ki reminds me of my mother's dog in it, which made me feel all warm and cuddly =X

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    2. Twilight does not compare to "A Werewolf Boy"! The acting and feeling in this movie is so much better.I cried so much during the movie. lol. Song Joong-Ki used so much emotion and effort, and you can definitely tell. This is my honest opinion,though.

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  2. Yes, please, for the 16 episode drama adaptation. They did an alternate ending for the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice for the US, too. I wonder why they keep on doing that?

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    1. I think the alternate endings are a way to get people to go see the movie in spite of bootleggers, really. And it's almost like re-releasing a CD with extra tracks to extend its life. (In a way, I want to get the DVD now to see what the Korean ending is like.)

      In 2005 the horror movie The Descent was also released with different endings in the US and the UK. At the time, I heard that they thought the UK ending was too bleak for American audiences.

      I wonder if the controversial kiss at the end of P&P was the difference between releases

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  3. Twitter 'friend' in Shanghai said that she was extremely moved by this movie.... Of course it is SJK that first peaked my interest but hearing similar comments has now really peaked my interest...

    BTW I have come via Soompi... Got back into the never ending circle of Kdramas again this summer after being away for a couple... Was discussing this obsession with a good friends daughter when she just happens to mention that her bestie started Soompi.... One thing lead to another and here I am....

    Currently taking a slight break after viewing Nice Guy. Yeah know with the holiday season and trying to get things cleaned up in the office, those all nighters were taking a toll... But.... Reading your blogs has me once again, sleepless!!! Great read!

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  4. I so so so want to see this movie. Hopwfully it will come to the US

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    1. It's actually showing in some U.S. theaters right now! The official website has a list: http://www.awerewolfboy.com/#!locations-/c1vlv.

      It's really worth seeing, I think.

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  5. This looks amazing!! Definitely going to watch this soon!! I had already read a review from another blogger that said it was really good. I think it's right up my alley.

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  6. Great post! I've been hearing about this movie and I really want to see it. At first, it was because of Song Joong Ki, but as soon as I saw the trailer, I knew I had to see it. I just looked at the site and they actually have a showing in Dallas! I'm going to have to get on that! :D

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  7. Amanda, I love your posts!... we have the same witty sense of humor and even point of view!..., so, Keep it up! ... you have gained a new follower!...

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  8. Ah, this is kind of old (?) but, I'm not sure which ending I watched? I watched it on Good Drama and, I can't find spoilers of the endings so I know which one I watched. 'Cause the original ending (at least according to you and several other non-spoiler type reviewers) was better than the American release alternate ending. I'm so confused. OTL

    But, holy smokes, was Song Joong Ki's acting phenomenal. Park Bo Young's too! Acting a wolf boy seems more difficult though, so mad props, son. Tearing up just thinking about it!

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  9. DRAMA ADAPTATION YES PLEASE!!! Oh the possibilities!
    I watched this 3 times in theaters omg it just really got to me

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  10. The original ending of the movie is Suni being a grandmother already and reunited with Chul Soo right?
    Thats what ive watched. What would be its alternate ending? Im searching for it but cant find any.

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    1. Spoiler alert! Don't read any further if you don't wanna know.

      Basically the alternate ending is the ending the movie should've kept. Bo Young's character finds Joong ki in the room & she suddenly becomes young again. The camera follows above the pair when they hug & the room glows like if they were in a dream. The following morning, she wakes up to find the room dark & dingy, as if no one had been in it for years. She realizes she is old again & notices that Joong ki is gone.
      It's beautiful really. It's as if it had all been a dream, which I personally had preferred rather than knowing that Chul soo(joong ki) really did wait for her for 47 years. All alone. Patiently & desperately.

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  11. Despite the very sad story, but A Werewolf Boy this is the cutest movie I have ever watched.

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  12. WHAT WAS THE ORIGINAL ENDING FOR THIS MOVIE.

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