J: Jeon Woochi, The Taoist Wizard (2009)

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This Korean fantasy action comedy got a domestic release as Woochi the Demon Slayer. I didn’t need a W movie, I needed a J, so I’m stickin’ with that original title.

The movie begins with a sequence explaining that the Arch God (or so the translation says) kept the race of Goblins imprisoned for 3000 years by playing his flute. Three of the minor gods ruin this plan by accidentally opening the prison a day early, releasing the Goblins and resulting in the Arch God’s demise. The Goblins fall to fighting over possession of the powerful flute.

The minor gods continue to live among men, seeking out the Goblins (also disguised as humans) and then hiring magical warriors to capture them, because they, themselves, are obviously quite useless. In the present day, two of these Goblins escape, and the three gods panic, because their Goblin hunter of choice – Hwa-dam (Kim Yun-seok) – vanished a few hundred years ago after capturing what was thought to be the last Goblins. This leaves them no choice but to release another Taoist wizard they themselves trapped in a painting, Woo-chi (Gang Don-won).

The movie is going to rebound from present day to sometime in the Joseon Dynasty in Korea. Woo-chi is known as “the scoundrel”, as he uses his magic to do things like embarrass worthless royalty. His master (Baek Yun-shik) tells him he will never be a true magician, as he “cannot empty his soul”. Indeed, Woo-chi can only work his magic with his yellow paper talismans, obligingly carried around by his servant, Chorangyi (Yoo Hae-jin), who is actually a dog hoping to someday become a full-fledged human (he also really resents being turned into a horse when Woo-chi needs one).

In the course of this extended flashback, we find out that Hwa-dam is really a Goblin (the green blood is a giveaway) and he frames Woo-chi for the murder of his mentor, as part of a plan to get the flute macguffin. Woo-chi and Chorangyi are trapped in separate paintings, but ha ha on Hwa-dam, Woo-chi had the flute in his possession, and it too is now stuck in the painting.

So 500 years later – now – Woo-chi and Chorangyi are set loose to track down the two extant goblins. Of course, Woo-chi is going to run into the reincarnation of his lady love from back in the day, and be distracted by trying to prove to her she’s just that – meantime, there’s a big rat and a big rabbit demon causing trouble, and Hwa-dam is starting to drop any pretense toward being human in his search for the flute. Just ask the restaurant he massacres.

“Cadbury Eggs my ASS!”

If there’s a flaw in Jeon Woo-chi it’s the length – two hours and fifteen minutes. Koreans seem to really like long movies. The fish out of water stuff goes on way too long and dilutes what is otherwise a pretty delightful action comedy with monsters and high production values. I do love it when a movie that ends with a battle of magic actually has the money and imagination to realize it. And I love that Bunny Goblin.

Buy Woochi the Demon Slayer on Amazon