The Host & r & & r & by MARTY DEMAREST & r & & r & There have been few decent satires filmed in the last 50 years. The likes of Bob Roberts and Bullworth both relied on the bankrupt baby boomer ideal of respecting elected officials. The formerly biting Dr. Strangelove now looks as flaccid as a Saturday Night Live skit. Even Peter Sellers' hilarious performances in that film look limp next to the witless politicians and demented warmongers who have actually ascended to power in the last few years.
The Host (Gwoemul), a South Korean monster movie, may be the first successful post-9/11 political satire. Perhaps it's because the movie was made in a country that neighbors a very real threat. In The Host, the citizens of Seoul spend many anxious hours looking into the water, waiting for a giant beast to emerge. When it does -- a multi-mawed, ravenous water-mole -- it rampages along the bank of the Han River with the intensity and CGI plausibility of the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. In the movies, that's as real as you can get.
Politics make appearances in The Host, most notably in a mad American scientist who orders toxic waste to be dumped into a river and a general who organizes a campaign of terror against a nonexistent disease. But the real protagonists of the film are members of a slack-jawed family thoroughly engrossed in their television programs and pop tunes. When the daughter of the family is taken by the beast, however, even the schlubby father finds an inner reserve of aggression. Defying the military while other citizens are hiding away, he undertakes to liberate his daughter, who is being kept alive in a trove of bodies under the city.
Surrounding this matinee-style monster movie are brilliant moments of dark comedy. A public mourning, reminiscent of the shrines of 9/11, is undercut with drunkenness and confused outbursts. Cell phones are used profusely, and they muddle the search for the missing girl as much as they facilitate it. And when the main characters finally decide to ignore the government and the media, the movie becomes a thoroughly entertaining adventure that speaks for the strengths of individuals in an era of dying politics. It's both an entertaining and sobering message of what's to come, delivered by a nation that is nearly there. (Rated R)