The 400-Word Review: Boogie
By Sean Collier
March 29, 2021
If I could get away with using only three words to review “Boogie,” it would be simple: Just a movie.
“Boogie,” the directorial debut from writer and restaurateur Eddie Huang, is neither particularly good nor notably bad. It has a stock story — a brash young man’s coming of age, lampshaded by references to “The Catcher in the Rye” — told in typical fashion. It chooses a genre (sports drama) befitting its story and doesn’t deviate. Stray moments are funny; some dramatic scenes are effective. It explores the particular experience of its character just enough, without offering any real insight.
You know. Just a movie.
The title character, née Alfred Chin (Taylor Takahashi), is a promising but hotheaded basketball prospect. His father (Perry Yung) has concocted a scheme involving a school transfer in the hopes that Boogie will lead his new team to defeat the local all-star, Monk (played by Bashar "Pop Smoke" Jackson, the hip-hop star who was killed in 2020).
Boogie, inevitably, is a ball hog who needs to learn about teamwork. He’s also pursuing the affections of a classmate, Eleanor (Taylour Paige), who will serve as a sounding board and guide, even as Boogie is generally despicable to her. His mother (Pamelyn Chee) wants him to follow the advice of an agent (Mike Moh) and accept a lucrative contract to play professionally in China; his father wants him to score a full scholarship to an elite school..
There are glimmers of intrigue when Boogie begins to wrestle with the cultural connotations of his place in the world, considering the weight of the Asian-American experience amid his life in a predominantly African-American milieu. (Eleanor puts him in his place when he begins bemoaning the state of his cultural history over her own.)
Unfortunately, those merits are counterbalanced by troubling, retrograde sexual politics, particularly a groan-worthy subplot sparked when Boogie learns that Eleanor had a prior relationship with Monk. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s certainly casual misogyny.
Huang — who frequently finds himself in trouble over his braggadocious, flippant social-media persona — has been accused of misogynistic behavior before. His feature debut would’ve been a good time to mitigate such charges; instead, he’s doubled down.
It’s not a film-ruining flub; it does, however, wash away the hope that “Boogie” would rise to the level of a cool recommendation. As it is: This is just a movie.
My Rating: 5/10
“Boogie” is available via digital on-demand services.