Parents' Guide to

What Happened to Mr. Cha?

By JK Sooja, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Korean actor spoofs self, celebrity culture; strong language

Movie NR 2021 102 minutes
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For a lighter and goofier take on some of the dangers of Korean celebrity, Cha In-Pyo admirably lampoons himself for the sake of comedy and largely succeeds. What Happened to Mr. Cha? begins with a 4th wall-breaking narration over the opening credits with Cha quickly establishing his doubts about taking on such a self-meta-role. But as much of the film is about Korean celebrity and the difficulty of maintaining it, clearly, Cha takes the job. What follows is a somewhat thin plot involving Cha getting trapped under an exploded building because he was hilariously trying to maintain a certain image (going to the abandoned high school to shower because he couldn't be seen in public as dirty so couldn't risk being seen making it back home). Eventually Cha comes to terms with the reality of not being a star anymore. For this setup of metafiction to work, Cha has to commit wholeheartedly to his own self satirizing and he does so with aplomb. Throughout the movie Cha ends up doing exactly what his character in the film preaches to never do: embarrass himself or look like a fool, look weak, look uncool, or be exemplary. By the end, Cha's revelations of not having to keep up all his performing of masculinity and fame ring true.

Hats off to Cha In-Pyo, who does an incredible job portraying himself with a deft comedic touch that shows off wonderful instinct and timing. He has to both poke fun at himself and keep himself humbly the star of this film, which is a film about an ex-star forced to realize he's no longer one, and even when it's a direct ostensible vehicle for Cha's career "resurrection." Cha readily takes on humiliating tasks that often end up in slapstick humor, like grabbing dog poop with his bare hand, falling into a muddy puddle face first, or being mistaken for a sexual predator. What Happened to Mr. Cha? will likely be funnier for Korean audiences, however, because many gags and bits cite Korean popular culture references that non-Korean audiences and younger audiences might not get, including direct references of Cha's older work, which fans will get a kick out of. The film has some pacing issues and could have cut a few meandering sequences in its middle third, but a strong and funny supporting cast, some cute cameos, and solid performances all around greatly outweigh the film's shortcomings. If anything, Cha proves that he should continue to be a star. His sincerity shines through.

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