By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
The rhythms of the Korean movie release season are much the same as Hollywood’s- including the time-honored tradition of releasing splashier films around Christmas time aimed at a broader demographic.
Like you’ll clearly be bringing your family to this in a week or so.
Swing Kids tells the story of a dance troupe cobbled together from North Korean and Chinese POWs and a South Korean and American solder during the height of the Korean War. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be horrified at the extreme tonal shifts. Fun for the whole family.
Swing Kids does boast an infectious energy and some utterly top notch dancing from Broadway tapper Jared Grimes and teen heartthrob DOH of the K-Pop EXO. It’s clear all involved are really enjoying themselves for the majority of the flick, and you’ll quickly buy into the team of misfits dynamic that the group develops as time goes on.
The movie itself is as slickly shot and produced as any Hollywood blockbuster likely costing far more, and Swing Kids gets an additional boost of energy when DOH’s dim-witted mountain of a Korean killing machine shows up in camp. He’s just an utter delight.
There are intermittent spurts of strangely cartoonish goofiness that do draw a laugh or two at the randomness of it all, but it’s not often that you see a movie house both Looney Tunes CGI buffoonery and bloody slaughter.
Speaking of that latter bit, you wonder why the film is the typical 140-ish runtime of most Korean films until you get to the dramatic part. Basically at the point where it’s fulfilled its almost sports film-like initial premise, Swing Kids switches over to a pathos-filled War is Hell/Ideology Only Divides Us message movie.
It’s a bit surprising this film is being marketed in the U.S. given how it ultimately presents the U.S. Military as the ultimate in murder-happy villainy. There’s some attempts at humanizing all sides, and I’m not one to deny the ulterior motives to essentially all U.S. foreign military involvement, but there’s something interesting in the air when the North Korean saboteurs come off as more empathetic. It’s Reunification Fever in the Korean peninsula right now, and it’s infusing even the holiday season entertainments at this point.
General inconsistency, odd goofiness, and a, let’s say, “interesting” view of history hold Swing Kids back in an otherwise enjoyable dance farce.
Swing Kids (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: anytime the physics get all Looney-Tunes
Take a Drink: for every pretty excellent tap or dance performance
Take a Drink: for every dance battle (which varies wildly excellence-wise)
Take a Drink: for American military food
Do a Shot: when an American goes straight cartoon Nazi-evil