My Sassy Girl is to Elisha Cuthbert what The House Bunny is to Anna Farris, a great role in a fairly bad movie that proves she can be more than Jack Bauer’s annoying daughter. My Sassy Girl though isn’t nearly as bad as you would expect it to be, primarily because Elisha Cuthbert turns what could have easily been another “magic pixie dream girl” character into a real person. Keeping up with her is an awkward Jesse Bradford as a farm boy whose big dream was going to NYU business school in order to get a job for the traditional farm company his father works for.
In that way My Sassy Girl is initially a throwback to the classic screwball comedy with the ditzy dame and the straightlaced bachelor colliding as she wrecks his life but teaches him how to have fun, and that is how the movie is being promoted, but My Sassy Girl’s biggest problem, besides the name, is that it is a remake. My Sassy Girl might have jettisoned everything of the original but the idea and that might have worked, or it might have stuck to a detailed scene by scene and line by line remake of the South Korean original. Instead however My Sassy Girl tries to awkwardly mimic some of the stylistic touches of the original and suffers from schizophrenia unable to make the transition that the original made from a more conventional comedy to a more conventional romantic comedy.
My Sassy Girl works well enough in the first two thirds fueled by Elisha Cuthbert’s brave performance, but by the time the original’s plot twist kicks in turning the movie from comedy into saccharine melodrama and transforms her Jordan from an edgy, wild and bitter person and into a classic romantic comedy heroine crying lonely tears and rejoicing when hope against hope the man she was destined to be with meets up with her again. In a movie that began with a hint of Carole Lombard, My Sassy Girl ends squarely in When Harry Met Sally territory, an uncomfortable journey that reminds us again that some conventions of Asian cinema will just not translate well, especially not when they’re translated as haphazardly as they were here.
My Sassy Girl succeeds as much as it does because Elisha Cuthbert’s Jordan feels all too real in the same way that the carefully lit and spotless New York City subways or every other character in the movie from Jesse Bradford’s ridiculously squeaky clean small town Charlie to his obligatory fat perverted best friend, do not. The reckless pain and wild anger she projects is an all too real and all too human and the emotions and behavior she displays makes her character one you are far more likely to find in New York than the usual heroes and heroines of romantic comedies who have met here on the silver screen. But when My Sassy Girl has done milking it for its comedy value, it assigns a tritely sentimental meaning to everything she has done and the journey then becomes a means to clean all that away and present her as simply another generic heroine waiting to step into the happy ending that had been waiting for her all along. It’s a perfect Hollywood ending and one that shortchanges every real human emotion in the movie in favor of manufactured yearning that magically comes true.