March 29, 2023

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Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan Star – The Hollywood Reporter

During their first lunch together, Jin Wang (Ben Wang), the shy teenage protagonist of Disney+ American born Chinese, he notices something unusual in his new friend. Even though Wei-Chen (Jimmy Liu) is new not only to school but to the country, he seems to have no qualms about calling out bullies who make fun of them, and never having to worry about making a scene doing so. “Never doubt yourself,” Jane notes, with a mixture of awe and embarrassment.

But Wei-Chen – son of a god and secretly new to human life – is unperturbed. “Why do I ever doubt myself?” Asked. This push between insecurity and trust will remain at its core American born Chinesethrough all kinds of drama, action, and fantasy, with entertaining and sometimes poignant results.

American born Chinese

bottom line

Delightfully agile update of the source material.

place: SXSW Film Festival (TV Premieres)
Show date: Wed, May 24 (Disney+)
Throw: Ben Wang, Jimmy Liu, Daniel Wu, Michelle Yeoh, Yu Yan Yan, Chen Han, Ke Hui Kwan, Sydney Taylor
Developed by: Kelvin Yu

Creator Kelvin Yu doesn’t treat Jin Luwen Yang’s graphic novel as a template for his series as much as a starting point. Key components of the source material remain intact with a narrative that braids together Jane’s earthly teenage woes, Journey to the West– Inspired epic fantasy and scenes from a classic sitcom featuring an offensive Asian stereotype (Ke Huy Quan). But its core elements have been updated, remixed, and expanded. In this version, Wei-Chen enlists Jin on a mission to help his father, Wukong the Monkey King (Daniel Wu), thwart a plot by the Bull Demon (Leonard Wu) against their Celestial Empire – all while Jin struggles to balance schoolwork, soccer, and football. Foot, a strained home life and hopeless affection, each of which seems to make him feel out of place in some way.

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The new material transforms what once felt like a personal story with strong allegorical flourishes into something more like a superhero epic, all the better to fill out the eight half-hour episodes that will sit side by side. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law And Ms. Marvel on the home screen of the streaming device. (And if the open season finale is any indication, American born Chinese He hopes to return for more seasons.) For the most part, his big ambitions are paying off big. Destin Daniel Creighton brings to the first episode the same facility of blending heartfelt drama and supernatural spectacle that he demonstrated in the first episode. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The show’s action is particularly fun, with physics-defying encounters that see characters spinning through the air and literally jumping off walls as the camera pans up and down hallways – at least until the finale, also directed by Creighton, which takes an unfortunate turn towards the Marvel-esque Heaven’s Gate nonsense. esque.

The show’s incredible momentum alters some of the characters’ relationships and motivations. We never get details of the Bull Demon’s nefarious plans, for example — let alone any sense of whether his grievances against Heaven (which seem intolerable, based on a hilarious long-running episode to Celestial Party) might ever be justified. But it’s hard to care so much when American born Chinese Having a lot of fun. Even as the narrative stakes are taken to the next level, the series finds room for clever pop culture references or silly bits of humor. Like when Guanyin (Michelle Yeoh), the glamorous goddess of mercy who pretends to be a buffet-loving, sweatpants-wearing aunt, finds herself stymied by an Ikea coffee table. “I have eased the suffering of millions, and calmed the oceans,” she said aloud. “I will not be defeated by Swedish furniture.”

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Yeoh is perhaps the biggest star among a cast brimming with lovable Asian and Asian American talent, from scene-chewing Ronnie Ching, Jimmy O. Yang, and Stephanie Hsu as other beings to Yeo Yann Yann and Chin Han, bringing a life of shared love and disappointment into their mundane human roles as Jane’s father. Such actors may no longer be as rare in Hollywood as they were a decade ago; The past year alone has yielded Asian American projects as diverse as PachinkoAnd Fire Island And Everything everywhere at once (For example but not limited to). but American born Chinese The past is known by its long shadows, and it reckons in a bittersweet fashion with the long history of American culture that has portrayed Asians as fools or obnoxious, when it bothered us at all.

When Jimmy (Quan), reflecting on his problematic role decades later, explained that he stopped acting because the only parts he was offered were “nerds, neighbors, and sometimes ninjas,” it was all too easy to see him as a parallel universe version of Quan himself – one who just couldn’t make it. His triumphant and Academy Award-winning return Everything everywhere at once. And though Jin’s self-awareness is practically a universal teenage experience, the quiet humiliation on his face when confronted with old clips of Jimmy’s character Freddy uttering his inevitable catchphrase (“What would go Wong?”) demonstrates just how much of his insecurities. Which he feels from a painful awareness of the way people who look so much like him are seen.

where American born Chinese It comes a little short in broadening its focus from its individual characters to the harmful culture surrounding them. While he calls out the microaggressions Gene faces at school, or the biased system that prevents Jimmy from advancing professionally, he doesn’t find the bad guys among them; The only real danger is the Devil, whose inability to find the courage to chase his dreams has turned to resentment. The story is about how Jane deals with a racist meme, not about assigning his classmates to pass around the meme at first; It’s about Jimmy grappling with his legacy, not about why his character is and remains “iconic” to so many fans.

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The result is a show that seems to pull its punches without fully realizing that it is doing so. If in Yang’s comic book Pain and Anger landed like a slap in the face, Series Yu feels like a shove – still powerful and riveting, sure, but with a less intense bite.

However, what remains at the end of each episode is not a memory of her flaws, but of her strong sense of confidence. American born Chinese It is mainly the story of Gene as he goes on a journey of self-acceptance, eventually realizing that he is enough just as he is – that he doesn’t have to let the world tell him who he is, what he’s worth, or what he’s capable of. But spiritually, she’s much closer to the uncannily sure Wei-Chen: unafraid to reach for the stars and let her true colors show, and much more inspiring.