Film Review: The Princess and the Matchmaker

Opulent but chaotic Korean historical epic with way too much going on, keeping you at arm’s length from becoming truly engaged.
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A drought has blighted Korea in 1753 and it appears the only way to bring on the rain is if the King (Kim Sang-kyung) marries off his daughter Princess Songhwa (Shim Eun-kyung) to the proper suitor. A local diviner, Seo Doyoon (Lee Seung-gi), is brought in to abet the marriage procedure with complicated astrology charts and various cosmic energies, but the Princess is too free-minded to rely on him alone. She has long suffered from a certain jinx that continually undermines her life and, determined to not let disaster hit once more, she sneaks out of the palace to spy on her eligible bachelors. But it eventually becomes evident that the man she really wants is Seo himself.

That seems a simple enough plot for a lavish Korean historic epic, doesn’t it? Would that the film itself were as easy to follow as that synopsis, but director Hong Chang-pyo and screenwriter Lee So-mi have loaded The Princess and the Matchmaker with a bewildering plethora of flashbacks, characters and concepts that ultimately prove more exhausting than entertaining. A huge cast, including a couple of real beauties and a passel of adorable kids, work overtime to put it over, but their efforts make things seem even heavier and more needlessly involved than they already are.

Noisy violence and martial-arts-type combat are also present in this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink affair, which at least has some beautiful costume and production design work going for it. However, even this artful craftsmanship is often undone by Hong’s penchant for cheesy CGI effects, especially in the movie’s more romantic moments.

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