Ju Ji-hoon is Kim Jin-hyeok, heir to a family fortune and kidnapped at the tender age of four by a man who fed him cake till his escape two months later. To say then that his plan to open a bakery in an old antique shop is a baffling one would seem somewhat like an understatement. He hires Min Seon-woo (played by Kim Jae-wook), a genius patisserie chef who possesses a demonic charm: don’t matter if you’re gay or straight, if he thinks you’re cute you’re going to want him in a maniacal fashion. Funnily enough, Jin-hyeok has been the only one to resist, as seen on the day of their high-school graduation when he brutally rejects Seon-woo’s first-ever declaration of love. Their crew is soon joined by Seon-woo’s apprentice, Gi-beom (Yoo Ah-in), a boxing champion who has been forced out of the beloved sport due to a case of detached retina. Choi Ji-ho stars as Nam Soo-yeong, son of Jin-hyeok’s live-in housekeeper who has been sent along to be his bodyguard even though he is nothing but a sun-glass clad, walking catastrophe.
The trailer makes Antique Bakery look like a light-hearted comedy. And for the first hour it is, meandering aimlessly from one sit-com staple to the next as you look on, baffled to the point of furrowed brow as to where it is all heading. If you’re one of those people that like to go armed with research before a viewing, you will find a synopsis that refers to the dark pasts of the characters. Only one of them really has anything close to this expectation, the exploration of which is jammed haphazardly into the last half an hour with a resolution so incongruous it will leave you feeling all the more cross-eyed.
Antique Bakery is based on the shōjo manga of the same name. Created by Fumi Yoshinaga, it was marketed to a female audience aged between 10 and 18 and has already seen screen time as a TV show in both Japanese and Chinese as well as taken on the anime world. This might explain a little bit, as we can only assume that there may have been one too many storylines, character arcs and details to whittle down to motion picture length. Instead of streamlining the story in to a cohesive narrative, Kyu-Dong Min stitches together moments that are probably iconic in the comic, but have no real bearing or weight to the movie at large. The constant question of “What is going on?” will eventually come to hinder your interest and create a twitch in your hand that begs you to switch it off entirely and just move on.
The lack of direction ultimately affects your ability to create a connection with the characters as well. With no context for their ridiculous behavior and no gravity behind their actions, they become irritating caricatures more than entertaining personas. By the time their background details are revealed you’ve lost interest in their inner workings. So the boxing champ Gi-beom is just a gratingly irritating, insolent juvenile instead of a young talent frustrated at having to give up the sport that he loves. The bodyguard Nam Soo-yeong doesn’t rise much above his too-dumb-to-be-alive bumbling even though we find out his background of a rather violent childhood. Their pasts make no impact as they feel like superficial anecdotes, added in an off-hand fashion for the sole purpose of emulating the idea of depth. They do nothing to clarify the characters or ingratiate them to us, making the act of watching them a chore rather than a pleasure.
If you haven’t been privy to the comics prior to watching Antique Bakery, then the likelihood of this movie making any kind of sense or maintaining your interest for more than a moment is really quite low. You’ll laugh but only in that desperate and uncomfortable “What is going on here?” manner. The plot is suffocatingly bland, the characters are irksome and the ending makes no freaking sense! But if you still choose to give it a go, take this one suggestion: get drunk beforehand, it might help with the humour.