My New Sassy Girl opens on Kyun-woo (Cha Tae-hyun) narrating the end of his romance with the girl from the last movie, who gave up on everything and became a monk. In the midst of his heartbreak, he runs into his childhood sweetheart (Victoria Song), a young Chinese woman just as prone to violence and oddness as his last girlfriend. She has returned to Korea specifically to reunite with Kyun-woo. Before Kyun-woo knows it, he's engaged to be married, and his love helps him get his life together. He gets a new job, which turns out to be a source of tension for the newlywed couple.
So the film begins by quickly disposing of whatever they had built in the first movie, resetting Kyun-woo to his initial state. And then, in a flashback, we learn that he’s had this other love this whole time, a girl that’s been in love with him since they were children. He’s already earned her love as a kid, and so we mostly deprived getting to see these two fall in love. The girl, like in the first movie, is kept nameless, because this is actually the story of Kyun-woo. The girl is merely a facilitator for his growth, the promise of her loving him the main motivator for becoming a better person.
The girl is barely a character. At best, she is a collection of quirks. Like the girl from the first movie, she occasionally does bodily harm to Kyun-woo. Unlike the first girl, she isn’t really very difficult. She is a Chinese manic pixie dream girl, teaching our protagonist to say yes to things in life, to find the beauty in the mundane in all that. She lugs around a vintage camera, and turns their apartment into a cute little space filled with eccentric decorative touches. Her idea of foreplay is elaborate reenactments of scenes from famous movies, most notably Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love.
But she doesn’t work, or anything. All she dreams about is being a good wife to Kyun-woo. She has devoted herself into making him a better person. She doesn’t have her own journey to take. She doesn’t even seem to have her own friends. She stays in the sidelines while Kyun-woo learns what it’s like to work in a big company in Korea nowadays. The main conflict of the film stems from Kyun-woo’s efforts to keep his job, which lead him to keep secrets from his wife. There is certainly a story to be told about the pressures young people in South Korea face nowadays, with the nation’s unbelievably low rate of hiring and questionable corporate environments, but this movie reduces it to a game of humiliations.
And of course, there’s another girl that’s in love with Kyun-woo, based on almost nothing at all. Because the film is ultimately just a fantasy for the average Korean schlub, who dreams of somehow becoming an object of affection in spite of a general lack of value. The eventual drama mostly involves Kyun-woo being a terrible person, and the resolution is really just about him realizing how lucky he is. The film fills the rest out with empty quirk, never achieving the same levels of feeling as the prior movie. Acting is okay, but the characters just aren’t there.
My Sassy Girl had many of the same problems, to be honest, but it displayed an earnestness that could just win you over. It felt like it believed in its story, that the romance it was delivering was a story for the ages. My New Sassy Girl, on the other hand, doesn’t really feel all that interested in telling a love story. The titular girl barely figures into this story when all is said and done. She is just a prize, a reward for the hero for not being a terrible waste of space some of the time. It just doesn’t feel like anyone wanted to have this story told.