The Dude in Me
10th October 2019 2.15pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
13th October 2019 12.20pm at Vue West End
If you need a break from commentative, philosophical cinema and you’re looking for weird and wacky fantasy that defies all logic and completely loses the plot, there’s no better film than The Dude in Me. As a classic body-swap comedy, it’s a film fuelled by the collision of two unlikely worlds, but unlike beloved blockbusters such as Face/Off and Freaky Friday, the feature also merges two equally unlikely genres – teen flick and gangster movie – creating one marvellously melodramatic mess. Luckily, it’s funny enough to get away with it.
When nervous and nerdy schoolkid Kim Dong-hyun (Jung Jin-young) falls from a building and knocks mob boss Jang Pan-soo (Park Sung-woong) into a coma, the latter finds himself thrown into the life of the former, forcing him to fight off bullies whilst still keeping his own criminal life on track. But when Pan-soo happens across old acquaintances in his new body, he begins to question his past choices. As high school corridors collide with the high circles of the South Korean mob, all hell breaks loose.
This bizarre premise is a goldmine for quickfire comedy. Admittedly, the screenplay is about as subtle as a punch in the face and the constant fat jokes for the first half of the film do wear a little thin, but the feature is so ridiculous that none of these infantile body-shaming jabs hit hard enough to offend. The physical jabs, though, are another matter. This is a picture that truly puts the slap in slapstick. The physical comedy lands spectacularly, with Jung perfectly pulling off the contradictions of a hardened, combat-trained 40-year-old man in the body of a prepubescent adolescent.
When it comes to plot and pacing, the feature could get to the point a lot faster if it lost about half an hour of its runtime – but then, trying to identify a wider purpose to the film beyond entertainment may be a fruitless exercise. The movie does attempt to draw out a moral message, but only after an unrelenting onslaught of comedic violence. It’s best not to study the ethical guidelines too closely: if you can accept that a ruthless gangster can get complete redemption, you’ll be free to enjoy the mayhem. After all, if you remember not to take the film seriously, the corny, emotional string soundtrack and melodramatic exchanges are even more comically rewarding.
The Dude in Me draws on the timeless cinematic trope of the body swap and fills it with fun twists and farcical scrapes. It manages to veer into generation-gap territory as dubious as that of Big whilst maintaining that classic Freaky Friday teen charm. And just like Face/Off, it’s bonkers, but in the best way.
The Dude in Me does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.