You’ll be hard-pressed to find a brighter, more loveable and fun pair than Kim Min Jae and Park Gyu Young on KBS’ Dali and Cocky Prince (달리와 감자탕 /Dal Ri and Gamjatang). Sweet and hilarious, the series is the very definition of romantic-comedy. But it also has a lot of heart and is, maybe surprisingly so, grounded in reality while still being infused with a charming fairy tale aura. Simply put, it is one of the year’s most enjoyable and satisfying series.
The series couldn’t start off any better. Kim Min Jae’s Jin Moo Hak and Park Gyu Young’s Kim Dali are immediately likeable characters. They leave an excellent first impression that the series maintains and continuously adds on to as it progresses.
Dali is a visiting researcher at an art gallery in the Netherlands. A simple mix-up at the airport introduces her to Moo Hak, a director at food conglomerate Dondon F&B which grew out of his family’s small gamjatang restaurant. Though Moo Hak lacks formal education, he is hardworking and has proven to be a successful businessman thanks to his smooth talking and innate skills. Dali, meanwhile, has vast knowledge in the humanities, particularly art and is the daughter of an art gallery director whose prestigious family is part of the very upper echelon of society and
After their initial misunderstanding, the two mange to quickly connect in what might be the sweetest and funniest first meetings you’ll ever watch. But the two have to go their separate ways due to their personal and professional responsibilities. Little do they know, they will meet once again back in Korea when it turns out the struggling art gallery Moo Hak lent two billion won to is that of Dali’s father who has unexpectedly passed away.
Lingering feelings from the Netherlands clash with Moo Hak’s serious focus on making money and Dali’s struggle to keep her father’s legacy intact.
The best part of all of this is that this simple set-up leads to a fun, whimsical ride that really is unlike anything you might have recently seen. Dali and Cocky Prince is a romantic-comedy in the truest sense. Well-placed humor supports the well-developed and sweet relationship between Dali and Moo Hak.
The development of their relationship is presented in a way that feels natural, while still carrying that fairy tale aura that is very much a staple of Korean dramas. Both are immediately likeable characters. Two chaebol heirs who have come into their wealth in different ways. They might share different philosophies and experiences, but deep down they share commonalities in their kindheartedness and sincerity. Frequent clashes are matched by sincere interactions on the road to romance.
And the series manages a careful balancing act that has the characters appear to be thin, stock caricatures of familiar K-drama tropes at first. But in reality, they are full, well-rounded and deep individuals who have an easy time endearing themselves to the audience.
And that’s definitely a credit to both the writing and the performances of Kim Min Jae and Park Gyu Young.
Alongside the romance and comedy is just the right amount of soapy drama that allows for surprising twists and emotional moments, but none of which ever take away from the series’ brighter aspects. In fact, it’s these heavier moments that help to support the lighter moments of the series. And in turn, makes those moments feel all the more satisfying.
Weaving its way through several familiar themes including workplace antics, chaebol-assisted government corruption and some deadly mystery; none of it takes the focus away from our two romantic leads and their journey.
And speaking of weaving, the series creatively weaves art into both the story and the visuals. All of it helps to facilitate the series’ whimsical and fun tone.
Kim Min Jae and Park Gyu Young more than do their part to not only effectively bring their characters to life; their performances elevate the already strong material and characters. And for both of them, Moo Hak and Dali are departures from their recent projects. Their chemistry is off the charts and thanks to that, they are able to bring two multi-faceted characters together in a way that has the audience truly be engaged in their story.
In her first lead role, Park Gyu Young takes on the interesting character of Kim Dali. (Named after Salvador Dali, of course.) What is most interesting is that Dali is a strong female character. She isn’t a full-on kick-ass action hero, nor is she some withering damsel in distress. Dali is an intelligent young woman who may have grown up with wealth and privilege, but is also assertive and empathetic. She might not be made of steel, but she also won’t easily bend in the wind.
Not only is that a bit different from her recent supporting roles, it is also an atypical leading lady character as well. Recent series tend to shortchange female leads, most especially by breaking them down or making them weaker than they realistically should be. Not here, however. Dali isn’t a perfect know-it-all, nor will she allow others to step all over her. And that is the nuance that Park Gyu Young masterfully brings to her performance.
For Kim Min Jae, meanwhile, this may not be his first lead role. But it is his first comedic one. And though he has said that he isn’t a naturally funny person, you could never tell by watching him here. He is a natural as Moo Hak. Though at times loud and rough around the edges, Moo Hak is caring and kindhearted. He is a hard worker who has already accomplished much even with his lack of formal education. He is the titular “cocky prince” and that personality helps to bring about many of the series’ funniest moments. (Especially in scenes with the scene-stealing Hwang Bo Ra as his assistant Yeo Mi Ri.)
Kim Min Jae is a handsome young man, but that charisma never gets in the way of him delivering a good laugh. Indeed, sometimes it is that contrast that makes every punchline or gag hit even harder. And that’s thanks to Kim Min Jae’s performance as well.
The large ensemble cast does their job to fill out what is a fully realized world. Aside from the great Hwang Bora, the always dependable and versatile Kwon Yul brings his A-game as the emotionally mysterious Jang Tae Jin. And Hwang Hee is loveable hothead Joo Won Tak, Dali’s protective brother-figure detective.
I was already looking forward to the series thanks to leaning about the cast. But what intrigued me the most before its premiere were the amazing recreations of iconic paintings featuring the cast. Absolutely stunning.
Overall, Dali and Cocky Prince is a refreshingly fun romantic-comedy. Effortlessly balancing the romance and comedy with sincere emotion and exciting drama, the series makes for one of the year’s most satisfying and enjoyable watches. The irresistible charms of Kim Min Jae and Park Gyu Young power what is already a strong, well-written story. And when coupled with a fairy tale, dreamlike and literally artistic direction, the series is easily a memorable winner. One of the year’s strongest.