THE SHORT VERDICT:
Big started out promising but under-delivered. It was a little uneven in the beginning, but the sight gags were funny and the burgeoning feelings between the leads kept things interesting up till episode 12. Then episodes 13-16 went progressively downhill.
BUT. There is one compelling reason to watch this show: Gong Yoo. He is amazing in so many ways. And hot. Let’s not forget hot. He’s the only reason to watch Big, but he’s reason enough.
THE LONG VERDICT:
If you’re opposed to a whole lot of gushing about Gong Yoo, I suggest you stop reading right about now. You’ve been warned 😉
Episode 1, besides setting up the whole body swap, is also where we get to ogle shirtless Gong Yoo.
He most definitely did NOT look this hot when he went shirtless in his last drama, Coffee Prince.
Behold his royal chiseled-ness:
Yet, amid the multiple, hot, shirtless scenes, he delivers a fantastic performance. He goes from intense confusion to madly comic within minutes in this episode, and manages the switch effortlessly.
Compare his vibe in the picture above with this one:
Night and day.
Throughout the drama, Gong Yoo always comes across as very natural and likable.
He’s adorable as the teenager in a grown-up’s body. There were many scenes of him just being completely childlike and adorable, like this one where he plays air guitar on the frying pan and sings to Da Ran:
Seriously. How adorable is that.
And when he’s the teenager acting as a cool grown-up, all dressed up in a suit, he is dashing and all kinds of hot. Check out his suave entrance after the first time skip:
Importantly, besides delivering well on the funny stuff and the macho hot stuff, he gave fantastic performances in the sad, painful crying scenes as well, which kept the entire show grounded and prevented it from being a slapstick comedic fest.
He was nuanced, faceted, and he felt completely real. Every time.
No matter what the script called for from him, I always felt like Gong Yoo was centered and grounded and confident.
I can’t say the same for Lee Min Jung, unfortunately.
I’ve enjoyed Lee Min Jung’s performances in other dramas, like Boys Over Flowers and Smile, You. She had a lot of spunk in both of those dramas, and both times, I had felt that there was more depth to her character under the surface than what was presented in the script.
Sadly, this is not the case in Big.
Here, her character Da Ran is written as incredibly naive and ditzy. And rather one-dimensional too, I might add.
This is where I would hope that an actress of her ability would work her magic and add her own special touch to what’s written on the script. But that didn’t happen.
All we got was a WHOLE lot of ditzy from Da Ran, to the point where I was asking my screen, REALLY??
I fault the writing, but I also think Lee Min Jung could have played this better.
Given that Gong Yoo’s awesomeness dominated the entire drama, from the writing to the performances of other actors, Big was pretty great up till the end of episode 12.
Episode 12 culminated in a wonderfully knee-buckling kiss from Gong Yoo.
I cannot get enough of the closing scene, where he finally realizes that she loves him back, and he moves in to finally, finally kiss her.
The kiss starts out laced with tentative wonder and moves into tender urgency. Swoon.
I watched that kiss multiple times, I have to confess. So. Good.
Episode 13 wasn’t so great, and was basically the beginning of the downhill slippery slope that this drama went down.
To be honest, episodes 13 through 16 were quite a big mess, and netizens were mostly up in arms over an ending that wasn’t satisfying to many.
I don’t care so much for the ending myself, because the drama left too much to the viewers’ imagination.
[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]
MY THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING
A big complaint was that they never showed Kyung Joon back in his own body. The last scene obscured his face throughout and it was still clearly Gong Yoo playing Kyung Joon, albeit a Kyung Joon who’s supposed to have grown some.
I think a big driving factor as to why they didn’t switch the actors back was the fact that Gong Yoo had top billing for this drama, and they probably wanted to find a way to have him feature prominently at the end, up to the last frame. Therefore, till the very end, it was Gong Yoo’s face and body and hands that we get to see, not the original 18 year old Kyung Joon.
Still, narratively, that sucks, and I completely understand the ragey feelings that so many netizens expressed in the drama-verse. It made the ending feel very forced and illogical and strange.
My conclusion is, to enjoy this drama, you basically have to decide to have eyes only for Gong Yoo.
It is his performance that takes centerstage throughout, and he is wonderful and amazing and natural and sexy and hot. He is so adept whether he’s playing adult Yoon Jae or young Kyung Joon, making both believable and clearly distinct, even when the two characters come face to face.
Plus did I mention that he’s all kinds of hot? 😉
So, Gong Yoo is all that matters. Logic and narrative flow fail at various points, and you just have to shrug it off and admire the goodness that Gong Yoo brings.
Will I revisit this? Most probably. And pretty much only to ogle and swoon at Gong Yoo. Hot, gorgeous, sexy man who is also so natural onscreen.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Watch this, but stop after episode 12 and pretend the story ends there, since that is the singular most romantic scene in the drama, and the last 4 episodes are disappointing.
FINAL GRADE: B-
Swept off my feet.
Gong Yoo sang a bonus track for the Big OST, and it is so heartfelt. He doesn’t have a great singing voice, but he put his whole heart into the song, which is about the moment that Kyung Joon realizes that he will probably lose his memory of their love, post-swap.
The song title translates roughly as Because It’s You. And the song is basically about how everything is ok because it’s her. The pain is bearable all because it’s her. And he’s ok, he’s alright, with all of this, because it’s her. Wow.
Gong Yoo put so much heart into the song delivery that I have to take a moment and breathe, just to recover.
Kudos to Gong Yoo for recording at the studio in the middle of the night, in the midst of the insane live shoot schedule, towards the end of the drama, no less. That is when things are at their craziest, and sleep at its most fleeting.
Despite the fact that he must have been physically exhausted (which in itself takes a toll on the vocals), he really portrayed his character’s heart in song. I could actually feel the heart of his Kyung Joon while listening to the song.
I am in awe of this man.
Check out the track here: