On a trip to Seoul, the Korean-American hero of “Wedding Palace” receives an analysis of his culture from a potential girlfriend and the taxi driver who’s trying to help them connect. “Korean Americans are stuck in the ’70s,” the thoroughly modern Na Young (Kang Hye-Jung) tells Jason (Brian Tee). That’s because, the cabbie interjects, they all moved to the United States during that decade.
Such sociological insights, profound or not, enliven this mostly routine romantic comedy. The differing attitudes of Koreans and Korean Americans, two nicely animated flashbacks and a fixation on feminine-hygiene products — plus comedian Margaret Cho’s cameo as a wacky shaman — provide some unpredictability among the commonplace slapstick and stereotypes.
Actually, Na Young’s insight into Jason’s parents and grandparents is a little off. They’re stuck not in the ’70s, but the 1760s. That’s when one of their ancestors failed to show up for his wedding and was slapped with a curse by the spurned bride’s father: He condemned to death any male member of the clan who was still unmarried at 30.
Jason, of course, is 29.
The poor guy was just dumped at the altar by Jinnie (Joy Osmanski). His mother (Jean Yoon) is not only concerned about the usual stuff — the family, grandchildren — and the curse on her son; she’s also a nuptial perfectionist who runs the wedding palace for which the movie is named.
Jason flies to Korea to make a pitch for tampons for men (don’t ask), and Na Young is the lone woman at the conference table. She saves his proposal from the male executives’ skepticism. Later, she and Jason meet accidentally at a karaoke joint and have a great time together.
Back in Los Angeles, Jason continues to woo Na Young by live video chat. Soon enough, he proposes, and she heads to California for the wedding. But there’s one thing Jason doesn’t know about his intended, and when she arrives the family goes nuts — not that it’s a very long trip to insanity from their customary behavior.
The debut feature by director and co-writer Christine Yoo, “Wedding Palace” boasts some neat moments. The animated sequences are rendered in a simulated-watercolor style, and there’s a funny bit with Jason’s grandmother and some tough-but-tender Latino guys. Also, Kang’s Na Young and Tee’s Jason have a winning rapport when the script isn’t pushing them into contrived shtick.
In the end, the movie unsurprisingly counsels young lovers, cursed or not, to follow their hearts. But here’s an alternate moral: Just because your mother runs a wedding palace doesn’t mean you can’t elope.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
Unrated. At Angelika Mosaic. Contains toilet, tampon and S&M humor, as well as alcohol use. In English, Korean and Spanish with subtitles. 98 minutes.