It's little wonder how Scandal Makers turned out to be a blockbuster hit in South Korea. It doesn't have any offensive jokes that could put anyone off, relied on slickly crafted humourous situations that don't try too hard, and has characters that will endear and grow on you. It has some feel-good messages to impart without being preachy, and one would almost be surprised that this is a first time effort from writer-director Kang Hyeong-cheol.
Sure the premise may not be something that's new, and coming to mind is The Game Plan, where Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson finds his orderly, playboy life being abruptly interrupted by a kid claiming to be his daughter. Over here though, this Korean film upped Hollywood's ante by adding to the family tree complexity, and also to the magnitude of laughs. Hyeong-cheol's story has three generations living under the same roof, and it played out very nicely with little scenes that go to waste. I suppose with first time fearlessness, Hyeong-cheol provided the story with an air of freshness over a tried and tested formula about unexpected gate-crashing family members.
Nam Hyeon-soo (Cha Tae-hyun) is a radio DJ whose afternoon talk show gives him a new lease of life and popularity, especially with a single mother sharing her story on his show about her search for a long lost father. Bur his orderly, playboy lifestyle and bachelor pad get unceremoniously imposed upon when Hwang Jeong-nam (Park Bo-yeong) and her son Hwang Ki-dong (Hwang Seok-hyeon) come knocking on his door claiming to be his daugher, and grandson even! I think for any bachelor in the 30s (*ahem* like myself), this would either turn out to be a bad April Fool's Joke of mistaken identity, or horror-of-horrors, a tryst early in life that had gone totally wrong.
What more, with such a scandal – a swinging bachelor with a young adult daughter, who in turn is a single mom at a young age – it threatens Hyeon-soo's career and lifestyle, and so begins the comedy of keeping under wraps the situation, as well as to learn how to live and tolerate his new found family who have come from the village, where Hyeon-soo's only common ground with Jeong-nam, besides their talent for music, is their propensity to have early offspring.
A perfect dysfunctional family that serves up as a perfect scandalous story given the follies of youth. But this film is more about perceptions despite its title. We have a man who perceives himself as a major celebrity who would be ruined, as he has observed, should the paparazzi expose his childhood shenanigans. We have a daughter who perceives that it would be easy for her never-seen-before dad to accept her when she appears out of the blue with kid in tow. And the young kid too perceives that his crush (it's in this family's genes to start young) will only like him if he wears fancy clothes, rather than to rely on his musical talent.
While Cha Tae-hyun plays his selfish character, who through the course of the film learns something important about family, with aplomb, Park Bo-yeong's single mom role seemed to be too entrenched in her live-the-singing-dream subplot, and little is seen in the dynamics with her young son. In fact Hwang Seok-hyeon is the ultimate scene stealer here as the round-headed kid with curly hair, and his story-arc opposite Tae-hyun as grandfather and grandson is perhaps the best of the lot with plenty of laughs guaranteed. This kid just oozes charisma and charm, and from the moment he appears the magic got weaved and you'll find him totally endearing himself to you, the audience, with his smile-non-smile antics, and those crazy sleepwalking spells.
Scandal Makers is easy going fare that would appeal to a broad spectrum of audiences with its fine comedy and positive messages of love and enduring family ties that remind you of blood running thicker than water. Bring a date, take your whole family, and discover just why the South Koreans went ga-ga over this. It could be that kid Hwang Seok-hyeon, whose performance alone would justify the price of a movie ticket! Highly recommended!