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Review: Boogie (2021)

Boogie (2021)

Directed by: Eddie Huang

Premise: An Asian American high school basketball player (Taylor Takahashi) angles for a basketball scholarship while coping with his parent’s tempestuous marriage and romancing a young woman (Taylour Paige).

What Works: Boogie is a coming-of-age story and like most coming-of-age tales it’s about a young man fumbling his way toward maturity. The title character is an Asian American teenager and the filmmakers deliberately undermine the model minority stereotype often associated with Asian Americans. The title character, played by Taylor Takahashi, is difficult and arrogant and his family life is complicated. Boogie’s parents have a stormy marriage and unstable finances and those domestic difficulties trickle into their son’s life. Boogie is also revealed to have personal anxieties. Some of his worries are standard adolescent fears but they are focused through a specific Asian American lens that makes them unique. The flaws of these characters aren’t merely there to oppose the model minority stereotype; the defects and difficulties give these characters depth and complexity. Boogie’s nuanced characters are matched by the film’s vivid sense of place. Boogie is set in Queens, New York and the teenage characters speak in a contemporary adolescent dialect that sounds authentic. The movie also includes a lot of details of Asian American heritage and tradition, especially in Boogie’s home life. This gives the film a unique texture and locates it in something specific. The filmmakers never stop to explain these traditions; they just let the moments speak for themselves but also use these cultural details to tell us about the characters and reveal the subtext.

What Doesn’t: Boogie is a high school sports drama and the story adheres to the formula. All the facets of that genre are here. Boogie and his family have placed his fortunes in basketball and his future depends upon getting a sports scholarship. He romances a girl and conflicts with his teammates who are a ragtag collection of underachievers who must come together to win the big game against their local rival. The filmmakers do the sports story well but they rarely deviate from the formula and much of Boogie is predictable. The love story is the weakest element of the film. That’s not the fault of the actors. Taylor Takahashi and Taylour Page are convincing and make a likeable couple. The problem is that the story doesn’t give the young lovers much to do except hangout and the predictable fight and near breakup come across forced.

DVD extras: Featurettes and a trailer.

Bottom Line: Boogie is an average high school sports drama but it fares much better as a portrait of an Asian American family. Much of the movie operates within a familiar narrative formula but Boogie is distinguished by its details.

Episode: #860 (July 18, 2021)