[Screen It]


(2021) (Taylor Takahashi, Taylour Paige) (R)

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Drama: A high school senior transfers to a new school where he hopes to show up the best basketball player at a rival school and thus earn a college scholarship to continue his path toward the NBA.

Alfred 'Boogie" Chin (TAYLOR TAKAHASHI) is a high school senior and notable basketball talent whose bickering parents, Vivian (PAMELYN CHEE) and Lawrence (PERRY YUNG), have transferred him from his old Flushing, Queens school to City Prep to play for Coach Hawkins (DOMENICK LOMBARDOZZI). Despite that team not being good, his presence on that means he'll end up facing the best player around, Monk (POP SMOKE), and if Boogie can get the better of him on the court, then surely college athletic scholarships will be headed his way.

In class, Boogie is now good friends with teammate Richie (JORGE LENDEBORG JR.), and they're respectively set their sights on classmates Eleanor (TAYLOUR PAIGE) and Alissa (ALEXA MAREKA) who initially view Richie as rude and forward, if cute. At the same time, and not wanting his talents -- and potential future in the NBA -- to go to waste, Vivian has hired Melvin (MIKE MOH) as Boogie's manager, although his plans clash with how Lawrence pictures things playing out. As Boogie ends up in a relationship with Eleanor and must contend with his parents fighting over his future and how they're going to get there, he waits for his chance to take on Monk on the court.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

Back when I was a kid, I dreamed of being a football player, not necessarily because I thought I could make it to the NFL or the potential for earning an enormous salary doing so (although back in the mid-1980s -- when I would have first been eligible to play -- those figures were a far cry from where they are today).

Instead, it's because I loved the sport and even kept pages of hand-written player stats and such. Alas, my height, weight, horrible eyesight, and lack of any sort of talent to overcome those shortcomings meant I'd never get beyond the high school level of being a benchwarmer.

Nowadays, though, and with the potential of life-changing salaries, I can see why a lot of kids -- especially those who've grown up poor -- dream of making it big in any of the major American sports leagues, especially if they have some degree of talent. But it's a high and rocky mountain climb to get there, especially if you're not white or African American.

While Hispanics have made inroads in the MLB, how many Asian players are there in the NFL or NBA? Not many past or present, so for any such kid who's dreaming of being the next Yao Ming (who was born in China, not America), that mountain is double or triple the height.

Such is the case for the protagonist in "Boogie," named after the nickname of Alfred Chin (Taylor Takahashi) who's got talent to spare and warring parents (Pamelyn Chee and Perry Yung) who are pushing him toward potential future success. They've now transferred him to City Prep for his senior year of high school not because it has a great program -- in fact, it's just the opposite -- but instead because it means he'll face the most recognized rival in the city, Monk (the late rapper turned actor Pop Smoke).

If he beats him, he'll surely draw the attention of college scouts, get an athletic scholarship and then be on his way to the NBA. Or so his parents dream, which is a far cry from when they discovered they were pregnant with him and visited a fortune teller in hopes of some sort of good news regarding their future. The sacrifices of parents, the pressure they put on themselves and their kids to succeed, and kids hoping that sports are a way out are some of the themes found in this offering from writer/director Eddie Huang.

While recognizing there isn't much new in that scenario, the film does stand apart by focusing on the Chinese American side of things, something not that common in the annals of sports-based dramas -- at least with U.S. releases. That's similarly addressed -- purposefully so to drive home the parallel point -- when Boogie tells his AP English teacher that he doesn't see himself in any of the characters of the novels they're reading in class.

Then again, he's more focused on the game, both on the court and in trying to court his classmate, Eleanor (Taylour Paige), who initially views him as crude and rude, but then falls for him, all while their best friends (played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr. and Alexa Mareka) aren't as successful in making the sparks fly.

But that also holds true for the overall film that's decent enough for what it's trying to do and be, but never really rises much above or develops beyond the premise, at least to make us truly care about the protagonist and the outcome.

It's also doesn't have enough of that special or especially the usual rousing vibe that often turns such underdog sports flicks into classics. Instead, it goes through the motions as if that's enough to engage viewers to the point of cheering on the character and the quest. Alas, it's not and what we end up with is a mediocre flick. At least it shines some light on Asian American athletes, but not to the degree to give "Boogie" some much needed cinematic boogie. It rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed February 22, 2021 / Posted March 12, 2021

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