Family vacations are ripe arenas for comedy treatment, with the stress and clash of disparate personalities providing relatable scenarios for audiences. The frantic dash for the airport and abandonment of Kevin in Home Alone (1990), family feuds surfacing in The Great Outdoors (1998), and even bumping into an ex and their new lover in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), are all seemingly part-and-parcel of the vacation experience.
In Marrying the Mafia IV: Family Ordeal (가문의 영광 4: 가문의 수난) – AKA The Unstoppable Family – a family of gangsters-turned-business moguls finally have the embargo on their visas lifted and opt for a trip to neighbouring Japan. What ensues is one of the worst films to emerge in recent memory, an unwatchable, vapid, and offensive piece of celluloid that is a contender for the title of worst sequel in cinematic history.
President Hong (Kim Soo-mi (김수미) is not only the matriarch of the family but also CEO of the highly successful family business – selling kimchi. Yet her empire comes under threat when companies within Japan begin producing their own sweeter version, ‘kimuchi’, reducing President Hong’s profit levels. On discovering the news that the embargo on her visa, obtained during her former days as a gangster, has been lifted she arranges for a family vacation to Fukuoka with her three sons; effeminate Jang In-jae (Shin Hyeon-joon (신현준); casanova Jang Seok-jae (Tak Jae-hoon (탁재훈); and wannabe gangster Jang Kyeong-jae (Lim Hyeong-joon (임형준). Also in tow is buffoonish dog’s body Jong Myeon (Jeong Joon-ha (정준하), helping to carry luggage. Yet upon arrival in Fukuoka the family are caught in a botched bank heist with In-jae’s former girlfriend Hyun-young (Hyeon Yeong (현영), and fearing incarceration due to miscommunication, flee the scene. The family must endeavour to return to Korea, yet without money it will be quite a challenge.
When the best gag in a comedy film is an unattractive man passing wind, something is incredibly wrong. Yet that’s exactly what occurs within Marrying the Mafia IV: Family Ordeal, where attempts at humour are so acutely lame they barely register. Each protagonist is a ridiculous stereotype, so absurd and unfunny that they are impossible to laugh at. As such Marrying the Mafia IV: Family Ordeal is a highly offensive film in that the screenwriter and actors must surely believe the audience are fools in thinking such crass and banal jokes will actually work. The humour is so woefully juvenile that scenes depicting women drinking foot-cleansing water and a man farting to kill fish are actually intended to inspire laughter.
While stereotypes can often be mined for jokes, each member of the family may as well be the same person as only their costumes reflect the intended caricature. They are all void of personality and have zero redeeming features resulting in the absence of empathy, ultimately forcing their ‘struggle’ to survive in Fukuoka wholly redundant. The set-pieces that make their situation worse are ludicrous at best, as when a mentally ill man who apparently has the ability to speak the languages of the world allows the family to ride his bus – which he by canny coincidence is driving through the countryside at night – later becomes berserk and scares them. Offense is not reserved for the mentally ill however, as the misogyny within is utterly appalling. Aside from elderly matriarch President Hong, only two young female protagonists are present and are constantly sexualised as the camera traverses their legs and bodies. The worst is applied to Hong-young who is forced to dress as a schoolgirl and dance to Kpop, rip her dress to make a mini-skirt which the male protagonists look up at every opportunity, and also adorn the highly-sexualised attire of a man’s shirt with hot pants and high heels. She also sucks the cork out of a wine bottle – twice.
The acting is nothing short of horrendous by all involved. While the protagonists are intended to be lacking in intelligence, the over-acting by the cast is intolerable. None of the actors make their character endearing, interesting or entertaining.
Marrying the Mafia IV: Family Ordeal is without a doubt one of the worst films to emerge from Korea in recent times, a comedy that fails in every degree through the juvenile and absurd sensibilities within. It is offensive in the pursuit of cheap laughs, but the worst offense is ultimately bestowed upon audiences who are presumed to find the film funny. It isn’t. Avoid.