Daddy You, Daughter Me (2017) Korean movie review
Everyone has seen at least one “good” Body Swap movie, right?
I have to question that premise. Just think about it. What was the last good Body Swap movie you’ve seen? Most would have to travel back in time to 2003’s Freaky Friday starring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. This is before Lindsay Lohan flushed her career down the toilet. Some even have to go further back. The reality is that the “Body Swap” movie genre is far more memorable as a slice of pop culture than as an actual movie genre. It has notoriety rather than fame. We just remember it because of the kitschy-ness of the premise and the fact that most sitcoms and kid’s show did at least one “Body Swap” episode during their run. Usually, this is done when they are at the period to jump the shark.
Why is this? Well… in many ways, the premise itself limits the genre. On the surface, it is a premise for an easy comedy. You have a double “fish out of water” comedic setup alongside the comedic setup of contrasting two opposites. Thus, most “Body Swap” movies are comedies. What is the problem with this you may ask? Because it is too easy, it neuters any further development beyond the premise’s surface. Going further would require an evaluation of who your characters are and the factors that contribute in the creation of those characters. Mostly being used in comedies do not help too. It is not that easy for comedies to stretch beyond their genre’s comfort zone. It is not an impossibility but the difficulty is higher. This is the frame of mind when I saw the Korean movie “Daddy You, Daughter Me” (2017) starring character actor Yoon Je-Moon who specializes in villain characters and the young actress Jung So-Min. she has been in Korean movies such as “Twenty” (2015) and Korean drama such as “My Father Is Strange” (2017). Does the movie rise to the top and go against the odds?
The Answer is NO!
Is it at least a fun comedy?
The answer is not really.
1. The Plot doesn’t have to be special but it would help make the movie better!
“Daddy You, Daughter Me” (2017) is a Body Swap movie in which the father played by Yoon Je-Moon and his high school-age daughter played by Jung So-Min swap bodies. This one line describes everything you would need to recreate this movie in one’s head. You have a “low-level office manager” father who keeps badgering his daughter to do better in school; the typical parent. And you have a teenage daughter who is resentful of this fact in addition to the fact that she has to study and grow up; the typical teenager. Both think that they could do each other’s role better than each other. One day, a mystical family heirloom accepts this challenge and turns it into reality. It is the same plot as most body swap movies. In other words, there is utterly nothing “special” about the plot.
Now, you have to ask whether the plot for a movie in this genre really needs to be unique. Many genre movies do nothing special in terms of their plot after all. I could concede to this way of thinking a bit. It is not necessarily a deal-breaker. If the content is good, a lot can be forgiven. However, the plot of “Daddy You, Daughter Me” (2017) goes further in the negative direction which is a problem. Many-Body Swap movies include a mystery or “race against the clock” type element to their plot. This provides motivation and focuses on the characters. With this Korean movie, the plot immediately and intentionally removes any kind of serious objective or hurdle to the circumstances of the characters. There is nothing to drive the characters and the movie forward. What is left is the situation of having their bodies swapped. The result of this is that the movie ends up being a collection of loosely tied subplots and comedic skits. The plot provides nothing to the audience. It just retracts. This means that “Daddy You, Daughter Me” (2017) lives and dies on the individual moments it creates.
2. Comedy should be funny!
Since this movie is a comedy, these moments are usually ones of comedic nature. In other words, “Daddy You, Daughter Me” (2017) has to be really funny to compensate for its deficiencies in other areas. This is where “Daddy You, Daughter Me” (2017) really fails. First, the comedy is not evenly distributed with the weight put on to the father’s section (actor Yoon Je-Moon’s performance) of the movie. The daughter’s section (actress Jung So-Min’s performance) of the movie is more of a standard teen drama. Second, the skits in the movie don’t really come together and feel awkward. They feel like randomly selected skits put there to fill in time and to give out of work C-level comedians cameo work. There are several of them in the movie who the director seems to have a soft spot for. Third, the laughs are few and far between. The movie is simply not really funny. The comedic sensibilities feel 20 years out of date and depend too heavily on “fish out of water” and “gay” humour. In many ways, the movie plays better in its drama sections than its comedy section. But not by much.
3. The characters and body swap failure
The challenge for the creators and actors of a body swap movie is that fact that each actor has to play two different characters; more accurately the same two characters believably. Not only do the actors need to develop two characters to play, but they also have to mimic the other actor’s performance at the same time. In addition, each actor has to spend a lot of their screen time playing characters that do not suit their usually acting profile. It is not common for a male actor to play a female character and vice versa. It is a complicated and difficult task for any actor and actress.
In “Daddy You, Daughter Me” (2017), the main cast has to deal with differences in age, sex, and social/familial roles. Veteran actor Jung So-min has to play both a normal middle-aged man and a teenage girl in a middle-aged man’s body. Actress Yoon Je-Moon has to play both a teenage girl and a middle-aged man in a teenage girl’s body. It is a complex web of acting requirements and a burden on the cast. Thus, in many movies and shows, there is an effort to simplify the acting demands by focusing on a few attributes to differentiate the contrasting characters played by each actor. The end results are usually either underplaying the characters or overplaying them.
With this Korean movie, actress Yoon Je-Moon underplays the middle-aged man in a teenage girl’s body character. The character comes off as basically a girl who prefers to wear pants than skirts. In case of the actor Jung So-Min, the direction he chooses for his performance of a teenage girl in a middle-aged man’s body is to turn the character into a “flaming” gay character right out of the “The Birdcage” (1996). And when I say “flaming”, I mean overacting to the degree that no teenage girl in a middle-aged man’s body would behave like that. The personality of the teenage girl played by Actress Yoon Je-Moon and the teenage girl in a middle-aged man’s body played by actor Jung So-min do not match. While he is a good actor, he seems miscast. Actress Yoon Je-Moon fares a bit better but not by much. This breaks the suspension of disbelief for the movie. This is not helped by that fact that the supporting characters in the movie do not acknowledge and react to this obvious change in personality by NOT sending for the “crazy” mobile.
4. Why wrap up subplots?
It is obvious what the point of “Daddy You, Daughter Me” (2017) is. “Family”, of course! Most movies of this genre are about “family”. With this Korean body swap movie, this is meant to be manifested in this movie through the subplots coming together at the end because of how the movie is structured; a collection of skits and scenes. In other words, it creates several subplots from both character’s sections which, as a group, leads to a message of “family”. In theory, this could work. In practice, “Daddy You, Daughter Me” (2017) ends up feeling like it meanders about through most of its screen time. This is because basically none of the subplots gets concluded and is just left hanging as if they didn’t matter. To be honest, they don’t matter at least for this movie. It is surprising to the degree what happens in the movie doesn’t matter at the end. In fact, the movie could have just replaced most of the middle of the movie with a montage and it would have been the same result.
5. Being biased to the young
There are many movies about assuming someone else’s identity in order to walk a mile in someone else’s shoe. What is unique about a Body Swap movie is that it is a 2 for 1 deal. It is about two people meeting in the middle. Thus, this type of movie should not be biased towards a character; no playing favourites! This would be working against the point of the movie. While “Daddy You, Daughter Me” (2017) doesn’t fully lean towards one side, it definitely has a finger on the scale on the side of the daughter played by Jung So-Min. What the experience of swapping bodies reveal is that the father is just overall incompetent. In terms of his work life, his daughter in his body does instantly far better than him by being a flaming gay person. In terms of him in his daughter’s body, he is a worse student than his daughter and the only thing he is better at is playing around and dating. This just proves the hypocrisy of the character’s original stance.
Let’s also look at what the character learns at the end. The father learns that he really doesn’t have a leg to stand on when trying to say anything about the daughter’s behaviour. So, he should stop being a hypocrite. The daughter learns that her father is an incompetent failure who’s barely hanging on to his job and is doing this even though it is demeaning because that is the only way he knows how to support his family. So, she should have sympathy for the sad bastard. What a nice message of the family! Can you say that the movie is not biased?
Over the years, the body swap movie genre has not produced many good movies. “Daddy You, Daughter Me” (2017) doesn’t change the score. It is as shallow as what can be expected from the bulk of this genre’s output. But, it is not as funny as the genre’s average. And, for a comedy, not being funny is a deal-breaker.