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Review: Boogie

March 5, 2021

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Alfred “Boogie” Chin (Taylor Takahashi), the main character in Fresh Off the Boat producer Eddie Huang’s feature directorial debut Boogie, is a Taiwanese-American teenager in Queens, New York who dreams of playing professional basketball.

Working from his own screenplay, Huang has crafted a film that does a pretty good job of mixing sports movie clichés with some deeper themes about Asian-American identity. While Boogie does falter a bit from its reliance on these clichés, it’s still a decent and fairly enjoyable film that mostly finds a balance between its two halves.

This is very much a coming of age story, as well as a typical sports movie, with Boogie having to decide between following his own dreams and pleasing his financially struggling immigrant parents, who both came to America in search of a better life. Boogie’s father (Perry Yung) is obsessed with getting him into the NBA and turning him into a professional ball player, while his mother (Pamelyn Chee) is preoccupied with getting him a university scholarship, and sees basketball merely as a means to an end to achieve that goal.

At the same time, Boogie is preoccupied by the typical aspects of teenaged life, including navigating a relationship with classmate Eleanor (Taylour Paige), and a rivalry with fellow basketball player Monk (played by the late rapper Pop Smoke, who also contributes to the film’s soundtrack). Takahashi delivers a breakout performance in the title role, which also happens to be his acting debut. Despite being in his late 20s, and looking a bit too old to be playing a teenager, he does do solid work here.

Huang’s screenplay is at its best when exploring themes related to identity. In one subplot, Boogie and his friend Richie (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), who is from the Dominican Republic, are required to read The Catcher in the Rye for class. This leads to some interesting moments when Boogie talks about how he has trouble relating to Holden Caulfield, despite his classmates viewing the character as a hero, sparking a deeper discussion about representation in media.

There is a narrative through-line involving a fortune teller that Boogie’s parents visited before his birth that I wasn’t entirely sold on. The last act also feels rushed, and doesn’t offer enough of a satisfying resolution to the story, leaving the 89 minute film feeling a bit short. But, while Boogie is a clichéd film that leans on some stereotypes, it’s still a fairly enjoyable basketball drama that has some interesting things to say about identity.

Boogie is being released in select theatres today where they are open. It’s being distributed in Canada by Focus Features.

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