There is an argument to be made that this film should have been more biting given the subject matter and central story.
We all know that South Korea has its history with shady political figures and here in the United States, we are smackdown in the middle of election season giving us an endless supply of lying dog-faced pony soldier politicians using the media to manipulate the masses into thinking they truly have our best interests at heart.
Politicians are scumbags and everyone besides the people who make 24/7 cable news networks part of their daily routines are all aware of this fact. So a film that satirizes lying no good dirtbags could potentially be a smash hit given the times.
The problem is, films like Honest Candidate aren’t looking for a parallel to real-life, just a whacky good time. Our film begins with a third-term congresswoman Joo Sang-soo (Ra Mi Ran), who is running for the fourth time. Joo is a habitual liar. She lies to her husband, lies to her children, lies to the public, she even lied about the death of her grandmother who is still alive. One night her grandmother gets sick and tired of Joo’s antics and makes a wish that she can no longer tell a lie. The wish comes true and unfortunately for Joo, it happens just days before the elections are about to take place. With a whole political career that is based on lies, Joo Sang-soo must fight her own mouth from destroying it.
The premise of this film is one that we have seen before. Honest Candidate is the remake of the 2014 Brazilian film O Candidato Honesto and the premise is similar to films such as 1997’s Liar Liar. It is also easy to see how this film wouldn’t have worked out as well without Ra Mi Ran as the lead. Her comedic timing and mannerism really carry a film that wouldn’t have worked with lesser talent. The humor plays up to its core audience, lots of yelling, and physical gags that Koreans audiences eat up.
The plot at times gets lost in the shuffle as there are too many subplots that don’t quite pay off by the film’s conclusion. The film struggles to balance its more serious subplots with its comedic tone. At one point, Joo Sang-soo, decides to run her platform as “the honest candidate” a twist that could have made a compelling angle but even that gets lost with the whacky subplot of lying about her son’s real mother in of itself going nowhere.
Honest Candidate is a passable Korean comedy but doesn’t do enough with the setup that it’s given to set itself apart from some similar concepts.