Director: Lee Cheol-ha
Cast: Uhm Jeong-hwa, Park Sung-woong, Lee Sang-yun, Bae Jung-nam, Lee Sun-bin
Runtime: 1 hr 40 mins
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 24 September 2020
Synopsis: Mi-Young runs a shop at a traditional market, where she makes and sells twisted bread sticks. Her husband Seok-Hwan works as a computer repairman. One day, Seok-Hwan wins a free trip to Hawaii. Mi-Young and Seok-Hwan will go on their first international trip together. When Mi-Young and Seok-Hwan get on the airplane to Hawaii, things don't go as expected. Terrorists, including Cheol-Seung who chase after a secret agent, get on the same airplane. The passengers soon become hostages. Suddenly, Mi-Young and Seok-Hwan begin to rescue the passengers.
With leisure travel not returning anytime this year, a movie about flying will either seem like unnecessary torture, or a wonderful temporary escape. Thankfully, with its wacky ensemble and riotous plot, Okay! Madam is likely the latter for its audiences.
Mi-Young (Uhm Jung-hwa) is your gregarious stallowner, hawking donut twists and effusive compliments. She’s well-liked but has a frugal nature, with a tendency to be particularly stingy with her husband Seok-Hwan (Park Sung-woong). So when he wins a lottery for a trip to Hawaii, Mi-Young considers cashing it out instead. But her young daughter, aggrieved at her family’s poverty, tugs at her heartstrings and so the matriarch decides to take the holiday for the sake of her family.
But alas unbeknownst to the trio, a North Korean fugitive agent ‘Magnolia’ is also making the flight to escape the country, and she’s tailed by her former partner Cheol-Seung (Lee Sang-yoon) who’s leading an operative against her. When the team hijacks the plane and hunts down Magnolia, it becomes clear that the lives of the hostages are the least of their priority as they steer the plane towards North Korea.
So how is this a comedy you might ask? Well, with a large cast comprising of an agent wannabe flight steward (Bae Jeong-nam as Hyun-Min), an actual National Intelligence Service (NIS) agent who has aviophobia (Kim Nam-gil) and a director with a weak constitution (Lim Hyun-sung), the flight path here is more bumbling than threatening.
As a first effort in comedy, Lee Chul-ha does an admirable job with Okay! Madam. His setting is classic but the premise boasts enough twists to spearhead the laughs. The star-studded appearances including Lee Sun-Bin, Park-Ji-ll and Yoon Ji-on are a treat to watch even as they ham it up.
The gaffes here are many, with the ones by Mi-Young and Hyun-Min being some of the best. Their stretchy antics here don’t feel exaggerated, no doubt thanks to the commitment they put in every shot. A special mention goes to the spirited young girl playing Mi-Young’s daughter. Her bushy-eyed and quick turns help propel in the story in the directions it needs to without too much of the saccharine.
Shot on an actual Boeing 777 aircraft, the production here is as polished as one would expect from South Korea. Insta-worthy palettes and the striking colour contrasts remind us to never take the situations too seriously, but don’t be fooled that there’s no thrill here.
When the operative goes against the Magnolia-in-hiding, the clash is snappy and satisfying. The cat-and-mouse is aided by side contributions from unexpected passengers, and you’ll be surprised how it all comes together. Barring the occasional lapses in logic, I would have loved to have more scenes of Magnolia taking down the offense with her inventive use of the environment, even as she hides her identity from others.
If you are feeling the effects of the extended landbound situation and need to hop on a flight somewhere, this aerial romp with a zany (if sometimes cliche) cast is the happy travel pill to negate just that.
(Take flight and ease that travel sickness with a light-hearted comedy full of fish-out-of-water situations)
Review by Morgan Awyong