I’m always excited and scared whenever I watch a remake of something. Excited because hey, it’s always fun to watch a retelling of a story you once loved and scared because they might butcher it and ruin your precious memories. Okay, I’d concede I couldn’t remember the original film version of this series except for Zac Efron’s dazzling smiles (haha). But still, it’s nerve-wracking to start an adaptation series. Fortunately, the makers of 18 Again made sure it will live up to the original and transform it into their own (very K-dramaish) story.
All of the basic elements from the original American fantasy comedy film was there: unhappy adult, Hong Dae-young (Yoon Sang-hyun) becomes 18 years old again and decides to live his life “better” than he did in the past. Since it’s top-billed by veteran actors Kim Ha-neul as Jung Da-jung and Yoon Sang-hyun as Hong Dae-young, the main storyline was as expected well-acted. What came as a surprise though was how good Lee Do-hyun is in this drama.
I’ve been keeping an eye on him since his Still 17 days and pledged my support on his future projects after his stint in Hotel Del Luna. But I was still skeptical of whether he can manage a lead role in this series opposite well-known skilled actors. And he did! He even managed to surprise and surpass my expectations of him. Lee Do-hyun as the young Hong Dae-young/Ko Woo-young sounded and looked like a real ahjussi trapped in a young man’s body. He performed a believable impression of that of Yoon Sang-hyun’s take on Dae-young.
It was palpable during his scenes with Kim Ha-neul. He really looked like he was the adult Dae-young whenever he was with Jung Da-jung. It also didn’t hurt that Lee Do-hyun has good chemistry with every cast, especially the young cast.
Whenever Dae-young/Woo-young was with his schoolmates, he always felt like an oddball but in a good way. I agree with how they describe him during their reunion scene in the finale episode, Woo-young was more mature than any of them. He has the wisdom of an adult (well, because he is! haha). It was an effort on Do-hyun’s part to really look like a father while acting out scenes with his supposed children.
Speaking of, I also enjoyed watching the subplots of Dae-young’s children. His son, Hong Shi-woo (Ryeo-un) was a loner and bullied in school. With the help of his friend Woo-young, he managed to get out of his shell and truly enjoy high school. Shi-woo and Woo-young’s bromance, if I may call it, was sweet because Dae-young always wanted to connect to his children and he was given a chance to do it in Woo-young’s persona.
This series tried to stick close to its original material as much as possible but they changed some bits of it. One of them is the storyline of Dae-young’s daughter, Hong Shi-ah (Noh Jeong-eui). They made her into a much more confident girl than her American counterpart. She’s tough and independent, which was good but her character eventually learned that she still could lean on her parents and family for some support. She didn’t need to shoulder everything. Shi-ah also stood up against her brother’s bully Goo Ja-sung (Hwang In-yeop). And even bicker with Woo-young whenever his fatherly nagging comes out.
Dae-young/Woo-young’s interactions with Shi-ah’s admirers are also hilarious but at the same time, he also managed to touch these young boys’ hearts with his wise words. He experienced what they are already going through, that’s why Dae-young/Woo-young could understand them. I especially like his interaction with Ja-sung because he is one misunderstood character. He and Shi-ah would have been a cute couple (I love his public confession!) but I’m on Team Seo Ji-ho (Choi Bo-min) all throughout the series.
Seo Ji-ho was always there for Shi-ah. He would do sweet things for Shi-ah even if he wouldn’t get acknowledged for it. He’s the type of guy your dad would approve of. And he really did get Dae-young’s blessing (haha). Hopefully, Bo-min will get more good roles in the future just like In-yeop and Jeong-eui.
Dae-young and Da-jung’s friends also have their own side stories that didn’t feel like filler scenes at all. Choo Ae-rin (Lee Mi-do) and her past crush on Hong Dae-young got me literally rolling in laughter in my bed. That was just comedy gold. The love story of Ko Deok-jin (Kim Gang-hyun) and Ok Hye-rin (Kim Yoo-ri) was also a cute side-story. These two are match-made in cosplay heaven.
Even the supposed antagonist and second lead have their good share of praise-worthy scenes. Choi Il-kwon (Lee Ki-woo) was annoying and made me fume for a while but he did get punished for his deeds. Ye Ji-hoon (Wi Ha-joon), for his part, was the kind of second lead you’d wish well. I didn’t really felt any threats from him as Dae-young’s rival. What I like about his storyline though is his past connection with Dae-young. It was a well-played plot twist.
On the whole, 18 Again has a good cast but the series standouts are really its four main leads. Yoon Sang-hyun and Kim Ha-neul and their younger counterparts Lee Do-hyun and Han So-eun. Performance-wise, they were all in sync with each other. Most importantly, through their brilliant portrayals, they successfully conveyed the warm thoughtfulness of its story.
What will you do if you were 18 again? 18 Again explored that question and gave us eight-weeks filled with laughter, tears, and poignant moments. It didn’t make its story too profound that it failed to be funny. But it also didn’t forget to give us some life lessons even in its most hilarious scenes. 18 Again was that kind of drama. It managed to make its audience ponder about life things and tug our hearts with its family-oriented storylines.
-Hwang In-yeop why are you so talented? (p.s. Check out the original MV for this song – K.Will’s My Heart is Beating – because IU is there!!!)
-Jeong Bo-bae is a cutie! I look forward to Oh So-hyun’s future projects.
-The JBC Squad including the directors are also a cute touch in this drama.
-Major plot hole that I ignored is how the heck Dae-young become old again? Did I miss something?
-Did I already mention there’s plenty of Lee-Do-hyun-in-the-rain scenes here?