In Brief: Watching real basketball at any level will be better than this film about an Asian high school phenom.
Those who know me and who regularly read my reviews know how much I love basketball. Until COVID I played full court, fast-break basketball two or three times a week.
Not bad for someone in their 70s.
People who also regularly read me know that my love of basketball doesn’t extend to basketball movies. I’ve liked a few of them, but sports movies — and specifically basketball — are rarely very good.
That’s the case with Boogie.
Alfred “Boogie” Chin is an Asian-American high school kid with an attitude. A bad one. The kid is also a basketball phenom being pegged by some as potential National Basketball Association material.
First, he has to get through high school.
That’s tough. Part of the problem is his relationship with his parents. Boogie doesn’t like them much. Dad has them deep in debt, has been in prison, and he and mom don’t like each other any better than Boogie likes them.
His parents have different ideas on the direction of their child’s budding basketball career. Dad — who has taught him a lot about basketball and who has not seen Asian athletes set the sporting world on fire — wants him to go to a major college on a free ride scholarship. Those offers aren’t coming.
Mom doesn’t care about scholarships and pursues a different angle.
Then there’s the high school basketball coach and a beautiful girl that he likes. They start out with an oil and water relationship but eventually work things out. Both feel discriminated against in a mostly white society.
That’s a huge part of the focus of writer/director Eddie Huang’s movie. Some of how these kids feel about life, racism, relationships and family is interesting. Most of the rest of the film is annoying. It’s hard to like movies about teenagers and teen angst and it’s impossible to like one about a whiny teenager.
The scowl never leaves Boogie’s face. Nor those of his parents. And now that I think about it, scowls don’t leave the faces of just about everyone in Boogie. At the root of the unhappiness — says Huang — is racism.
Boogie’s issue is living in a more or less white society with Chinese parents who are still living like they are living in Taiwan. In one scene Boogie’s dad tells him someday he’ll take him home. Since I don’t know the exact line and Boogie’s answer, I’ll paraphrase. He says something like, “I thought this is our home.”
The boy’s problem, however, goes deeper.
Scenes in Boogie’s English lit class point that out. They’re covering The Catcher in the Rye and much of the discussion in class is Holden Caulfield and his dilemma. Boogie can’t relate to Caulfield. In fact, he can’t relate to anyone and that includes teammates on the basketball court. Boogie can’t stand them. He thinks they’re all losers.
Fitting in — apparently — just isn’t his thing. That, too, makes the kid totally unlikable and he never gets past that. So there isn’t much to like in Boogie. You don’t like him. His parents suck. The best buddy is pretty cool and so is Boogie’s love interest but the movie doesn’t revolve around them. It revolves around him.
He’s not likable and neither is this movie.
Director: Eddie Huang
Stars: Taylor Takashashi, Taylour Paige, Pamelyn Chee, Perry Yung, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Pop Smoke, Mike Moh
Rated PG-13 for language and mature themes. This one tries to have game but has none. Boogie does a quick double-dribble and then fouls out. Give it a 2 on the Friday Flicks with Gary o to 5 scale.
You can find Boogie at a few local Portland area theaters.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.