First off, the American actors, although decent in their roles, cannot compete with their Korean counterparts. Part of it could be that certain aspects of the film did not translate well to the American setting and culture. For example, it is very common to meet sassy girls such as Jordan Roark, played by Elisha Cuthbert, in America, especially New York City. Most of the time she came off as a single, independent woman refusing to take shit from anyone rather than a deeply mysterious and disturbed person. Also, Gianna Jun's catch-phrase "I'm gonna kill you" just didn't sound as funny, believable, or endearing when spoken by Cuthbert. Plus, Jun had a cute eye-popping look to her face when she said it. On the other hand, Jesse Bradford was comparable to Tae-hyun Cha. He came off as a polite and nice guy from a small town in Indiana going to the city to "make it big" for his blue-collar family. The most unique addition to the cast was his roommate Leo, played by Austin Basis. In the Korean film, Cha's friends are pretty much nameless. He has no one close to confide in, hence, why he had so many internal monologues. Overall, the American characters were not as shocking or initially disturbing as the Korean ones. I immediately liked both of them. No matter how mean Jordan was, she was always forgivable in my eyes. It helped that she was not physically abusive.
Some of these subtle changes made the movie better, to some degrees, than the original. First off, the lack of internal monologues allowed the director more opportunities to show the relationship blossoming rather than telling us. However, there were many key points where I missed the monologue and explanation of the hero's feelings, such as the scene in the taxi cab. The pace of the film was a lot faster too, which I appreciated. It was not divided into three parts and the overall story time was condensed to a a frame that is more realistic for the American culture and audience.
The general plot remained true to the original. This might have been detrimental, though, to the overall success of the film. For example, their activities, such as racket ball and Kendo fighting, could not compare to the Korean film. In fact, it felt odd because these aren't traditional sports that American college students would play. Also, the dancing sequences were graceful but not as fun as the Korean pop dance clubs.
One major difference was the background story of the male hero. In the original Korean film, he is an engineering student with no direction and no aspirations. In the American version, Charlie Bellow, played by Jesse Bradford, is the first in his family to attend college. He wants to get that ever elusive "American Dream" as he goes to school to earn a Business degree (capitalism at its best). Jordan represents the opposite of this dream and even Leo tells Charlie he needs to learn to "live."
The setting was more familiar, so there were no unexpected scenic shots. There was the university dorm, Central Park (simply stunning), and various city restaurants and cab rides. Jordan's home was also exquisite. The camera angles and various shots did little to add to the overall film effect. They were not as artistic as the Korean film's.
The music was fun but nothing really special. They kept the wedding cannon song (thank goodness) but took out "My Girl," which I was sad to discover at the end of the movie.
Despite its flaws and some of the cheesy changes that were made, the movie was still fun to watch. I appreciated the writer's and director's attempt to stay true to the original film while updating it for a new viewing audience. It was especially interesting to view the two back to back, which is what I did. I recommend interested movie-goers to watch the original and then the remake. It gives you a great opportunity to compare and contrast the highs and lows of both films!