Korean Movie Review: Cheese in the Trap (the movie)

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Original series poster

Back in 2016, a Korean drama was released called Cheese in the Trap, starring Park Hae Jin and Kim Go Eun. On the surface, it was a college romance between a rich, popular guy and a poor, hardworking girl. If that sounds familiar, that’s because there have been dozens of tv shows made that fit that exact description. And yet, this one was different. Why? Because of the characters, of course. The male lead is sociopathic and doesn’t even understand how to be a decent human being. The female lead is serious and uncertain. Even the background characters don’t fall into clichés.

To this day, Cheese in the Trap is one of my favorite dramas, despite the rushed and somewhat open-ended ending. So, when I heard Korea was making a movie based on the series (which was originally a webtoon), I was both excited and apprehensive.

Trailer for the movie with English subtitles

It was released nearly a year ago, and since then I’ve been avoiding watching it, mostly because I was so worried I would hate it. I finally plucked on the courage to watch it.

And I was right: I hated it. So, sit back, relax, and get ready for a long rant review.

The Casting/Characters:

Nearly the entire cast was recast for the movie, leaving only Park Hae Jin (the male lead, Yoo Jung) and Moon Ji Yoon (an older student who bullies Hong Seol, the female lead). All the new actors I disliked. I don’t dislike the actors themselves, but they did not fit for the roles.

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Oh Yeon Seo as Hong Seol

Oh Yeon Seo takes on the role of the main character. Now, I am a massive fan of this actress, who I’ve watched and loved in Come Back Mister and My Sassy Girl, so this isn’t criticism towards her. But she totally did not fit as Hong Seol. Hong Seol is insecure, and must be pushed to her limit before standing up for herself. Oh Yeon Seo’s portrayal of her, on the other hand, feels too strong without any of the weaknesses of the main character. And she’s falsely awkward. One of the great things I loved about Kim Go Eun (the original actress who played Hong Seol) was the perfect balance between strength and weakness, making her character both relatable and likable. This Hong Seol doesn’t have that quality.

Equally, none of the secondary actors did a great job in their roles either. You have Park Ki Woong and Yu In Young as twins Baek In Ho and Baek In Ha, and yet neither of them are compelling as in the original. Baek In Ho is a rebel, resentful of Yoo Jung (male lead) because had to give up his dream of being a pianist after his hand was broken. In this movie, he feels more like a spoiled, immature rebel instead of a tortured soul. Equally, Baek In Ha, his twin, was both spoiled, likable and hateable (is that a word?) in the original series, but here she’s just a bit of a road block for the main couple. She doesn’t feel real as if she were a caricature.

I could go through all of the characters similarly, like Hong Seol’s best friends, but I would just be repeating myself. Just know all the characters felt bland and undermotivated.

lso, the ages. This is my complaint in a lot of teen/young adult dramas. The actors are too old, and end up looking like they are play-acting children. It’s just creepy. It’s like a seventy-year-old woman acting like a ten-year-old. It just doesn’t fit. Park Hae Jin is thirty-six and he’s supposed to be in his early twenties. Oh Yeon Seo is thirty-two, Park Ki Woong is thirty-four, and Yu In Young is thirty-five.

For reference, in the original drama, Park Hae Jin was thirty-four (still too old, but not as bad), Kim Go Eun was twenty-five, Seo Kang Joon (who played Baek In Ho) was twenty-three, and Lee Sung Kyung (who played Baek In Ha) was twenty-six. Meaning pretty much everyone except for Park Hae Jin (ironically the only actor is both adaptations) was just a couple years older than their characters.

The Plot:

Just as the characters felt bland, the plot felt way too rushed.

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Still from the movie

And before you complain that of course a two-hour-long movie is going to be more rushed than a 16-episode drama, let me point out that movie adaptations have come out of my favorite dramas which include enough of the original while cutting out any side-plots to be enjoyable.

I’ll look at two Chinese examples. The first is the tv series Eternal Love (starring Mark Chao and Yang Mi) and its movie adaptation Once Upon a Time (starring Yang Yang and Liu Yifei). The second is the tv series Love O2O (starring Yang Yang again and Zheng Shuang) and its movie adaptation Love O2O (starring Jing Boran and Angelababy). Both captured the essence of the original and cut out a lot of the side-plots that slowed the series down. And I enjoyed watching all four.

But this one felt way too rushed. The best part of the original drama was getting to know the characters and understanding why such different people as Yoo Jung and Hong Seol might be attracted to each other. But this movie, Yoo Jung just likes Hong Seol for apparently no reason and Hong Seol starts to like him…because he’s handsome? I actually have no idea, because we don’t understand her well at all.

Saying that, regarding the plot, the movie does follow that same main plot of the original. In fact, actual scenes are taken from the drama, just minus the good acting and compelling character chemistry. It’s like a spark notes version of a Shakespeare play, summarizing everything and not including any of the beautiful wording.

Finale:

I was worried I might be disappointed with this film, and I was right. It lacked everything I loved about the original and was an entirely unforgettable movie. I’ll sum up my reaction to this movie with a Baek In Ha (from the series) gif.

See the source image

So, there you have it. If you are curious about this show, I highly recommend the drama, but skip the movie.

Have you heard of this series? Or movie? Is there a movie/series combo that you hated one but loved the other? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

3 thoughts on “Korean Movie Review: Cheese in the Trap (the movie)

  1. Most movie adaptations based on a TV series are train wrecks… I’m not a big fan of them. Perhaps telling stories from an different angle would be more refreshing than just repeating the similar story?

    Liked by 1 person

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