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By Phil Hall | August 20, 2002

Hey, who wants to see a depressing movie about a third-rate Korean rock singer on a disastrous visit to his hometown? Well, if that sounds appealing than “Waikiki Brothers” is for you. Not since the Dave Clark Five flatfooted their way through “Catch Us If You Can” has the screen been home to such a downer of a rock-flavored movie.
The eponymous band optimistically bills itself as the “Beatles of Nightclubs,” but they are lucky if they can hook gigs playing musical backup for regional beauty contests or singing covers of “La Bamba” in garish small town nightclubs. The band’s leader Sungwoo convinces his group to play an engagement in his hometown, where he encounters his one-time high school buddies who were the original Waikiki Brothers during their teen years in the early 1980s. There is then an extended flashback to when Sungwoo and his pals were trying to start a band and gain respect for their efforts. Sungwoo during this time was also trying to win the heart of Inhee, the cute lead singer from a band based at the local girls school. Inhee, however, had no interest in him on any level.
Flash forward to the present: time has been cruel to Sungwoo’s former bandmates, as all have matured into professionally and emotionally stagnant men who complain about their monotonous adult lives. And boy, do they complain. The same problem has afflicted Inhee, who is recently widowed and belatedly interested in Sungwoo. However, Sungwoo’s current band gets fired from their gig at a resort and then one of his old friends gets killed in an accident and…Zzzzzzz.
No, this ain’t Glitter, which in a way is too bad since the film could use a few laughs. “Waikiki Brothers” is a damn boring and dreary film in every aspect that it becomes terribly uncomfortable to be witness to it. The entire cast is charisma-deficient and the life-is-awful story weighs down so heavily that it nearly drowns in its own sogginess. The music is typical of most Korean rock and pop confections–vapid and of no pleasure and value to non-Korean audiences.
Filmmaker Im Soonrye seemed to forget the cardinal rule of the celluloid universe: people go to the movies to escape the unhappiness of life, not to be reminded of it. To its credit, “Waikiki Brothers” has one genuine fun moment: a party in the early 1980s where the impossibly clean-cut Korean teenagers are dancing the twist! Talk about doing the time warp again!!!

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