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Posted : 2008-06-26 16:02
Updated : 2008-06-26 16:02

Princess Flies High, Dips Low


Shin Mina stars as a college student with fancy martial arts moves in director Kwak Jae-young's "My Mighty Princess.''

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

The higher you climb, the more it hurts if you fall. After much time and anticipation ― two years since its completion ― ``My Mighty Princess'' opens across theaters. Director Kwak Jae-yong, reaches for the sky by adding martial arts moves to a love story in the tradition of ``My Sassy Girl'' (1999). But he falls flat on his face in this contrived, cliched drama about a love struck martial artist.

So-hwi (Shin Mina) is a martial arts child prodigy-turned-college student, and in tune with her rainbow-hued outfits and pigtails, she bounces over rooftops when she's late for class. She's literally a ``mighty princess'' who makes use of her superhuman strength to dress up as Snow White to pull stunts in a freak martial arts gig.

One day, she realizes that openly displaying her monster stamina will never get her a boyfriend, let alone catch the attention of the handsome hockey jock Jun-mo (Yu Gun). To the dismay of her father and the rest of the mystical martial artist community, So-hwi decides to quit once and for all. She becomes the manager of the school hockey team so she can pursue her love interest.

While you can take the girl out of the martial arts, you can't take the martial arts out of the girl. And while So-hwi makes some effort to seem terrestrial, such as pretending to be unconscious when hit by a hammer, she's still able to chug down three bottles of soju from a hockey skate boot. Silent and brooding Hamlet-type Jun-mo, however, barely notices her, and to make things worse, he's head over heals in love with an older woman. Now, the audience is compelled to laugh as we see the 20-year-old cruising around on a motorcycle, wearing a heartbroken expression as he stalks a very pretty but middle-aged police officer.

Meanwhile, So-hwi's mystical martial arts community is at stake when the notorious Heukbeom resurfaces. With their magical sword stolen, only So-hwi ― who can reenact a legendary move passed on to her from her later mother (also played by Shin) ― can stop him. But our love struck heroine doesn't care about family or tradition, and it takes her childhood friend and fellow martial artist Il-yeong (On Ju-wan) to persuade her otherwise.

The final face off between So-hwi and the menacing foe in an open field of flowers is breathtaking, and Shin does a fine job of strutting out some kicks and blows. This is the climax of the movie, but it take two hours to get there, and in that time the viewer has already become distracted and bored despite the endless array of comical situations. The director has attempted to squeeze too many clever ideas into the movie, and cutting its duration by about 20 minutes would have done wonders to the otherwise fun story and beautiful visuals.

``Princess'' is not that bad. It's much better than the thoroughly disappointing ``Windstruck'' (2004), but fails to live up to the glory of ``My Sassy Girl'' and its organic mix of comedy and melodrama. Once again, however, Kwak proves himself to be the king of casting and star making, as the movie features fresh rising stars who create lovable characters and have great chemistry.

15 and over. 115 minutes.

hyowlee@koreatimes.co.kr

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