Review: The Beast And The Beauty (2005)

Directed by:
Cast: , , ,

Not available in Australia on DVD (to our knowledge)

I like Ryoo Seung-bom – he’s a very talented actor, and he has an engaging charm in the right role. In Arahan, for example, his gormlessly likeable character made it clear he wasn’t the standard Saviour Of The World, regardless of his special skills. And in Crying Fist, he gave a damn fine showing as a bundle of unresolved tensions always on the verge of exploding.

But you’d never call him handsome. True, he’s not a beast, but he’s pretty homely. As if to underscore his beastliness, though, he’s a voice actor who specialises in anime voice-overs. Well, anime roar-overs: he’s uniquely gifted at making the monster noises so vital to good anime. And it’s his monstrous abilities that win the fair maiden, because who after all could resist a man who can roar so convincingly?

So the combination of acting talent, mutt-boy looks, and energetic charm make him a fine casting choice for the role of doting boyfriend. And dote he does: in fact, the relationship is pretty sweet all round. He is charming, attentive, and ever-so-humbly grateful for the good fortune that dropped a beautiful girl almost in his lap, while she is quirky, independent, and quite definitely attached to her favourite monster.

Which makes this rather unusual, for a romcom. The couple are already together, they’re clearly happy, so where’s the story? Well, the story is that she’s blind, and he’s told a teensy white lie about his looks. Okay, he’s told some complete porkies about his looks. Instead of describing someone with a face for radio, he describes Jun-ha, his best friend from school days, who’s a classic looker. Of course, the lie has to come unravelled sooner or later, and he deals with this in the manner you’d expect from someone who’s best described as “…has a lovely personality”. That is, he panics.

So as Jun-ha pursues Hae-ju, Dong-gun goes to ever more extravagant lengths to put off meeting Hae-ju. The stated excuse, that he’s getting a facial scar removed, is a bit lame, given that the scar is fairly small anyway, but it does provide a few minor laughs. Ryoo handles it capably, though, making Dong-gun believably lacking in self-confidence, portraying an ordinary bloke who feels he can’t compete with the model-like looks and suave demeanour of Jun-ha.

And there’s another unusual factor here: Jun-ha, the threat to the relationship, is not a devious and immoral schemer, as he would be in so many other romcoms. Which makes the conflict in this film more convincing, because in another setting Jun-ha would be the leading man without a single alteration to his character. So Dong-gun, our beastly hero, is actually competing against a fairy-tale prince. Tough gig.

Okay, it’s not War and Peace. It’s a simple romantic comedy, which limits the scope considerably. But if you want a bit of entertaining fluff played by a strong cast, you’ll probably enjoy this.

7.5 confusing taxi rides out of 10.
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