Being one of the most watched movies in January 2020, Secret Zoo is serving you with a light, engaging storyline. The movie emphases its setting on an almost-abandoned zoo, which is a quest must be done by an intern attorney. Well, employing an attorney to work in revitalizing a bankrupt zoo may be a mismatch, but who knows? Probably this bad fit is what makes the film itself more enticing to watch.
Written by Son Jae-gon and 2 others, Secret Zoo is also directed by Son Jae-gon himself, making this film as his fourth work since his debut in 2000. His comeback after his 2010-film doesn’t make the team’s effort failed. Instead, within its first week after release, Secret Zoo successfully took over two foreign movies (Dolittle and Ashfall) watchers.
It can be said that the combination of drama and comedy in this film make the show worth to watch. The storyline isn’t that difficult to follow, and the adequately done cinematography makes the movie more enjoyable. In addition, the success of this movie may not be possible if the acting skills of the actor and actresses do not support the nicely-written script.
The Plot Synopsis of Secret Zoo
This movie revolves on the working life of Kang Tae-soo (played by Ahn Jae-hong), an attorney interning for JH law firm. He has been working for months in the firm, but has not had any significant achievement and somehow alienating himself from the company’s circle; not until he saves the firm’s CEO from the demonstrating mass’ which lights his hope to be recognized as a fixed attorney for the firm.
The CEO, knowing Tae-soo has saved him from public’s brutal confrontation, decides to appoint him to handle a not-so-easy task. Although somehow it doesn’t resonate with his job-desc as an attorney at all, he agrees on being sent to a ‘bankrupt’ zoo, Dongsan Park, to work as director for three months. Being a staff in M&A department is a stipend only if he succeeds to revitalize the zoo within the time given.
Driven by the position he’s about to get, he directly goes his way to the serene, yet lifeless zoo. The zoo is literally not a zoo anymore, given that almost all the animals are sold to cover the debt. Only an old polar bear and a bunch of animals not worthy to pay-off the debt are still there. Along with them, the zoo’s director (played by Park Young-gyu), two staff (played Kim Sung-oh and Jeon Yeo-bin), and a vet (played by Kang So-ra) are there to enliven the elderly polar bear. How about the other staff? Thanks to the unpaid wage, they already leave the zoo.
Despite the ‘glamor’ of being titled as director, it is not an easy quest at all for Tae-soo. Along with the somehow untrusting remaining zoo coworkers, they are planning for the revitalization of Dongsan Park. Animals’ voices should be heard from Dongsan Park, even if it must take a peculiar way!
The Casts and Characters
- Ahn Jae-hong
He plays as Kang Tae-soo. He is an attorney intern in JH law firm. He is appointed by the law firm’s CEO to be a director of a zoo in exchange for a position in M&A department in the firm.
- Kang So-ra
She plays as Han So-won is a vet working for Dongsan Zoo. She has a special memory with the old polar bear, Black Nose (Geom-eun Ko) which made her decision to work there. Just like other staff, she wants the best for the zoo.
- Park Young-gyu
He is Director Seo A, a quite pessimistic zoo director who supports Tae-soo to direct the zoo. He is kind of supportive but unfortunately his physical made it harder to fit the role.
- Kim Sung-oh
He plays the character Kim Geon-wook as a typical of rebellious, but loyal staff for the zoo. He seems to have a feeling toward his colleague, Hae-kyung.
- Jeon Yeo-bin
Her character is Kim Hae-kyung. The ‘love is blind’ seems to portray Hae-kyung well enough. She’s the girlfriend of Sung Min, and oftentimes found chatting during working hours.
- Park Hyuk-kwon to be the CEO Hwang
- Seo Hyun-woo to be the Secretary Oh
- Jang Seung-jo to be Sung Min
The Review of Secret Zoo Movie
Secret Zoo is a typical of Saturday-night movie anyone would like to join with their family; it’s almost free from romantic scenes and, well, animal-related movie would suit children’s taste of movie. However, the quaint and complicated business world at the beginning makes it a bit hard for young watchers to understand.
To be honest, the combination of two main leads doesn’t bring much chemistry in-between. Both Ahn Jae-hong and Kang So-ra are great actors on their own, but such chemistry isn’t that strong in most scenes. In addition, Kang So-ra doesn’t appear like a main lead. Contrasting with that statement, the zoo squad played by the five actors/actresses is not disappointing – each fills the lack of others, and the comedy within the group feels uplifting to some extent.
As for the story plot itself, taking the working life in zoo as the emphasis may bore some watchers. Moreover, only a few animals are being shown throughout the movie. It even may drive watchers to wonder why such zoo with a few animal collections successfully flips the zoo’s fate totally. CGI was also used in this movie production, but it feels ‘untidy’ that it looks like a forced character to exist in the movie.
Although previously it was said that the uplifting gags help Secret Zoo movie to gain attention, to say this movie is a comedic one doesn’t feel right still. It’s probably just the matter of someone’s humor sense, but if the funny bits are intensified, that will make the movie to be better to watch.
Despite the downsides of this movie, Secret Zoo is still an entertaining movie to watch. It is a light one, not filled with intense intrigues, so it is recommended to watch it during your holiday, or a day-off. Each actor and actress have shown their very best acting skill, the cinematography is quite nice either.
The Movie Reception
Despite the drawbacks, Secret Zoo got a positive review on movie review website like Rotten Tomatoes. It holds an 80% approval rating retrieved on August 2020. This also resonates with the Korean public’s reception to the film for its sales placed first on its first week after release. Unfortunately, the ticket sales dropped down by 77% in the following week.
Los Angeles Times and HanCinema reviewed this movie as well, taking the movie production team’s side. This webcomic adaptation movie may not be constantly high regarding ticket sales, but the story shown gave a fresh entertainment for its watchers. The unique storyline of Secret Zoo that was starring faux fur costumes is new for such genre of movie. Therefore, the movie succeeded to the fullest to provide enough entertainment.
With a movie production budget of a little over US$ 8 million, the movie’s production team successfully gains a profit for the movie. With a cumulative worldwide gross of US$ 9,4 million (according to IMDb), it can be said that Secret Zoo is a movie that won the heart of many.
People online also paid their attention toward this movie, which is shown in their online personal reviews on blogs like Asianwiki. According to the blog, the user rating for this family-friendly movie is 80/100 from 91 votes per January 2021. There is another platform in which the movie is scored lower, 6.1/10. While native reviewers scored Secret Zoo 3 out of 4, foreign websites like worldfilmgeek.com rated this movie quite similarly.
Secret Zoo: The Conclusion
So, is Secret Zoo a worthy movie to watch while spending the night with your family? Yes, it is! If you love watching a drama comedy movie that does not drain your energy to think, then this movie is a good pick for you. This movie is suitable to watch with your teen kids since the intrigue leading the problem at the beginning may be confusing for younger watchers.
As mentioned earlier, you may not expect any intense romance between the casts – it is not a romantic drama, after all. The source of the movie’s entertaining side lies on its appropriately placed comedy acts. Dialogues may not clearly show the funny side of the movie. Plus, although it may seem subtle and does not make you laugh out loud, but still, giggling a plethora of times along the 117-minute movie is what you should anticipate.
To sum it up, watching Secret Zoo may not ensure you the best movie of its genre. There are places for development, especially pointed for the screenplay writer related to the movie’s storyline. The chemistry between two main leads needs to be intensified either as long as it suits the storyline. It is unfortunate that this movie didn’t make its way to nominations and awards, but to say that this movie is a totally awful, it’s a big no. There is fun waits in each minute you spend while watching the movie.