One of South Korea’s biggest comedies from last year is getting a fresh new Japanese coat of paint on this week’s Trailer Tuesday.
Hwang Dong-hyuk’s crowd-pleasing MISS GRANNY told the story of an overbearing Korean grandmother who’s turned back into her twenty year old self at a magical photo studio. She adopts a new name, and hijinks – romantic and musical – ensue. In the upcoming Japanese remake, AYASHII KANOJO, the old-cum-young grandma will be played by Baisho Mitsuko and Tabe Mikako, respectively. While it looks like this version will be sticking fairly closely to the original’s plot lines, the movie’s more musical aspects make this a sort of a blessing. In the Korean MISS GRANNY, this meant we got some showcase moments for B14A’s Jin Young as her pop star grandson (*swoon hard*). In AYASHII KANOJO, we’ll have Dish’s Takumi Kitamura in the role instead (*swoon hard: with a vengeance*).
AYASHII KANOJO might also be one of the few instances when a remake is actually called for. In the tradition of all successful comedy, the South Korean age-swapper MISS GRANY was incredibly specific in its cultural details. For those intimately familiar with Confucian and Korean culture, the humor proved pitch perfect (“Ha, that’s so ajumma!”). For the rest of audiences, well, the broader bits were still pretty damn funny.
Nevertheless, this sort of humor begs for localization. It’s the blessing of the high-concept comedy: it lives atop its concept. All the rest gives itself readily over to reconfiguration. So you take the core conceit (time shifting granny), and adapt it to the local culture (“Korean grannys answer the phone like this. Japanese grannys answer the phone like this”). It’s either that, or you take the THE GRUDGE approach where you film the exact same movie, but replace the main character with a white actress.