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With: Yoo Seung-Ho, Kim Eul-Boon, Dong Hyo-hee, Min Kyung-hyun, Yim Eun-kyung
Written by: Lee Jeong-hyang
Directed by: Lee Jeong-hyang
MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic elements and language
Language: Korean, with English subtitles
Running Time: 85
Date: 04/05/2002

The Way Home (2002)

1 Star (out of 4)

Problem Child

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Opening today in Bay Area theaters, Lee Jeong-hyang's The Way Home is the best recent argument for sterilization.

This new South Korean film focuses on two main characters, an aged grandmother (Kim Eul-Boon) and her grandson, Sang-woo (Yoo Seung-Ho), who may be the most obnoxious child on celluloid this year. He even makes Draco Malfoy look like Shirley Temple.

While hunting for a job in Seoul, Sang-woo's mother drives the little monster up into the middle of nowhere and drops him off at her mother's, the child's grandmother, whom she hasn't seen since before the boy was born. The little beast is apparently severely spoiled and is used to getting his own way.

For 90 minutes we suffer as he cajoles, hustles, manipulates, and altogether uses his grandmother for his own selfish wants. At first, the little terror plays his video game until he runs the batteries down, then steals a hairpin, runs away to town and tries to trade it for batteries.

When the grandmother asks Sang-woo what he wants for dinner, he says, "Kentucky Fried Chicken." The poor old stooped-over biddy walks slowly all the way to town, buys a live chicken, walks all the way back, kills it, cleans it and cooks it -- a process that must have taken hours, if not all day.

When the little brat sees the meal, he bursts into tears: "This isn't Kentucky Fried Chicken!" Later, when the grandmother is asleep, he gets hungry and tears into the food anyway. He never even thanks her.

It was apparent right from the start what kind of film The Way Home really was. The grandmother would show the child the correct way to behave and the child would go home a changed and better person. That formula is bad enough, but The Way Home is worse: the child never changes. He's rotten all the way through to the end.

Even his would-be retribution comes far too late. By that point, we hate him with the fury of the fires of hell, and we're praying for some kind of bus accident to put us and everyone else out of their misery.

Newcomer Lee Jeong-hyang gets a few points for her naturalistic direction and sensitive performances. She had the good sense to make the grandmother character mostly deaf and dumb so as to avoid sickly sweet little conversations between the two. And the little brat comes across comfortable and unafraid to be himself on camera.

But I still felt like I was babysitting the son of Hannibal Lecter for two hours. The only thing The Way Home could be useful is to screen it for classrooms full of nasty kids to warn them off of such horrid behavior. Otherwise, audiences will have to sit still and fight off the urge to slap this kid into the next millennium.

Best Buy Co, Inc.