Secret Zoo (2020)

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Get ready for a zoo like no other in this funny Korean comedy from director Son Jae-Gon.

Kang Tae-Soo is a temp at JH Law Firm in Seoul. The law firm has been having a bad reputation due to their representation of the Rakwon Organization, whose CEO is in jail for fraud and embezzlement. In an effort to boost their reputation, the law firm has been put in charge of Dongsang Park, a zoo that has been bought out by a company based in the United Kingdom. Kang is offered to bring the zoo back to normal in three months with the chance to become a real lawyer should he succeed.

Upon his arrival, he is met by the only remaining zoo staff left in the park. They are the former zoo director, Seo; veterinarian Han So-Won, and staff members Geon-Wook and Hae-Kyun. Even more shocking, there are barely any animals left in the zoo. When Kang comes up with an insane idea of dressing himself and the staff up in realistic animal suits, things are quiet at first until Kang, as a polar bear, drinks a Coke and soon enough, everyone notices, and the zoo gets recognition again. As the zoo becomes popular again, will Kang be able to keep the charade up and what will happen when he learns things are really not as they seem?

Based on a webcomic series by the singularly named HUN, this is quite a funny Korean comedy with a very interesting story. Co-writer and director Son Jae-Gun, along with scripters Lee Yong-Jae and Kim Dae-Woo crafted a tale that more or less is about an ingenious idea that has both its rewards and consequences with our protagonist forced to wrestle with his conscience when he discovers something more to the actual job that is originally in store for him.

Ahn Jae-Hong is great as Kang, who from his introduction, is somewhat miserable in his job as a temp for a law firm with a bad rep. He is seen in the elevator with a former classmate who has become an attorney for the firm and we see Kang refuse an invitation to a class reunion because he is that miserable that’s just a temp. Of course, when a young person gets an opportunity to prove themselves, that’s what he jumps at and becomes the new zoo director of a rundown park that has very few animals. And of course, we know Kang is going to go from miserable to ingenious and perhaps, very happy.

Kang So-Ra gives great emotional support as zoo’s vet Han So-Won, who is connected to one of the zoo’s only animals, a polar bear she affectionally calls “Black Nose”. The comic relief comes in the forms of fellow staff Geok-Wook and Hae-Kyung, respectively played by Kim Sung-Oh and Jeon Yeo-Bin. It’s clear that these two, who dress up like a gorilla and sloth, have feelings for each other and Geok-Wook makes it clear even though his attempts to brush them off due to perhaps his shyness prove to be futile. In their costumes, they both tend to be quite funny separately as well but have that cuteness when they are together due to their strange chemistry. As for playing the old zoo director Seo, Park Young-Gyu is fun to watch as he gets in on the fun only to help his daughter, who is studying abroad. Of course, the third act takes quite a twist in a revelation that forces Kang to wrestle with his conscience as he truly begins to care about these people and the zoo as a whole and the way it’s set up and executed is quite fun to watch.

Secret Zoo is a fun film that takes the idea of a zoo and really turns it upside down with an ingenious plan set in motion, with the cast looking like they are eventually having fun with the plan.

WFG RATING: B

capelight Pictures and Acemaker Motion Pictures present an About Film/DCG Plus production. Director: Son Jae-Gon. Producer: Kim Song-Hwan. Writers: Son Jae-Gon, Lee Yong-Jae, and Kim Dae-Woo; based on the webcomic by HUN. Cinematography: Lee Seung-Hoon. Editing: Lee Kang-Hee.

Cast: Ahn Jae-Hong, Kang So-Ra, Park Young-Gyu, Kim Sung-Oh, Jeon Yeo-Bin, Park Hyuk-Kwok, Seo Hyun-Woo, Jang Seong-Jo, Park Hyung-Soo, Kim Heung-Rae, Kim Soo-Jin, Han Ye-Ri, Kim Gi-Cheon.

The film makes its U.S. debut on January 24 in Los Angeles before a limited nationwide release on January 31.

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