Swing Kids (2018) Movie Review

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.

A Toast

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.

Beer Two

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.

I guess…?

Beer Three

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.

Beer Four

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.

Verdict

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

About Henry J. Fromage

Movieboozer is a humor website and drinking games are intended for entertainment purposes only, please drink responsibly.

2 comments

  1. This is not a perfect movie, but overall I didn’t regret watching it. Jared Grimes and Do Kyungsoo (D.O.) were fun to watch. Grimes is tremendous dancer while D.O., having stage presence in spades, learned tap quickly and impressively enough to be, if not believable, at least enjoyable. (except for the amateur CGI Russian Kozachok dance sequence). The theme of “the love of dance as a universal language” was clearly made and understood. Refreshingly new was hearing the history of the tension between North and South POW’s and the American response to resettlement, in part because much of U.S. history focuses on WWII Pacific and Vietnam, not Korea. I did have the sense that the director could have been trying to make 2 movies at once, but I accepted the move from lightheartedness to life and death themes, because, as a viewer of Korean drama, the rapid shifts from foot-in-reality to the land-of-absurdity (from a Western perspective) and back again is not uncommon. (Though admittedly, this is the most rapid shift I’ve seen). My biggest issue is the politics. The introduction of the Ideology debate and using the US military as a scapegoat was a cheap theatrical stunt (just blame the white guys) especially using a black guy to do it. At worst, the anti-capitalist message was naïve and hypocritical. In less than 60 years, S. Korea went from one of the poorest Pacific rim nations to one of the richest. It has world influence that exceeds what an nation with a mere 55m people might otherwise have. All done because S. Koreans are masters of capitalism. The ‘we are one people’ theme pales when a north Korean wouldn’t have the freedom to create nor market a movie like this and is mostly malnourished, while the average S. Korean is well educated, well traveled and/or westernized by choice. The cost of designer ‘kabangs’ in a many S. Korean closets alone could feed a N. Korean family for a year. As for the treatment of US military in the movie, the critic is correct to ask, Why sell the movie to people when you are slapping them in the face? American lives were lost on that Pacific rim in ’41-’53 and it saved Koreans from a continuation of the 500 years of testosterone laden hissy fits thrown by its neighbors from all directions. Despite MY ideological differences with this movie, I would still recommend it. Just ‘mine’ the entertainment value out of it and ignore the ideological dribble written by usually less than informed creative teams. Just as we do with American movies these days.

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