Earlier this March, multitalented Eddie Huang, whose autobiography Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir was the basis for a six-season ABC network sitcom of the same name, made his directorial debut with Boogie. Staring Taylor Takahashi in his first-ever acting role, as well as Bashar “Pop Smoke” Jackson in his first and last acting appearance before his untimely death last February, the movie follows Alfred “Boogie” Chin, a Chinese-American basketball prodigy from Queens, NY who dreams of playing for the NBA. Having transferred to a new school and joining their basketball team, Boogie (Takahashi) prepares himself to go against his rival, local basketball star Monk (Jackson). A coming-of-age tale, he must juggle the uncertainty of future college prospects alongside a well-meaning yet overbearing mother, a dreaming newly prison released father and the common emotions and pressures that come with being a misunderstood teenager.
Although having an interesting concept, the film falls a bit short in its delivery, as well as its emotional connectivity. With a runtime of an hour and a half, many of the scenes feel a little misplaced or unnecessary, not really adding or taking away from the story’s central focus. A lot of the extra characters feel tacked on, mostly serving the purpose of pushing the plot forward without really being dived into, such as Boogie’s friendship with Richie, played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Love Simon, Bumblebee). Even The rivalry between Boogie and Monk, which is supposed to serve as the major conflict for the film, isn’t really fleshed out and is mostly reduced to passive-aggressive stare-offs whenever the two are around each other.
The same can be said about the romantic subplot involving Boogie and Eleanor, played by Taylour Paige (Hit the Floor, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), which is loosely connected to the relationship of Boogie’s own parents throughout the movie. Their love story just kind of happens at some point, only holding story merit when she is revealed to have a prior history with Monk. In fact, outside of Boogie’s own problems, the dynamic between his parents and its effects on Boogie’s choices is greatly highlighted, with flashbacks thrown in every so often of his parents visiting a fortune teller. This helps to provide to the more cultural themes of the film.
As far as the overall tone goes, the film does keep consistent with its mix of Black and Chinese-American cultural identities and tensions. When on-screen, Boogie and Eleanor frequently have discussions comparing and contrasting their family dynamics, as well as their struggles growing up. In their interactions with each other, Boogie’s family often addresses each other in their native language rather than strictly English. These details do add to the story elements of Boogie figuring out who he is and who he wants to be outside of his perceived cultural obligations.
Despite its rushed feel, Boogie does have an interesting story to tell that isn’t usually seen in modern-day media. It’s also worth mentioning the Pop Smoke heavy soundtrack, a touching tribute to the late artist who was just getting started.
Rating: 2/5 Stars