Boogie (2021)

Taylor Takahashi and Bashar “Pop Smoke” Jackson star in "Boogie" (image: Focus Features)

Review

BOOGIE (2021)

Taylor Takahashi, Taylour Paige, Bashar “Pop Smoke” Jackson, Perry Yung, Pamelyn Chee, Mike Moh, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Domenick Lombardozzi, Steve Coulter, Jessica Huang, Eddie Haung, Alexa Mareka, Despot

Directed by Eddie Huang

If you’re not familiar with the term “thirst trap” then you may not be able to relate to Eddie Huang’s feature debut “Boogie.” The multi-talented entrepreneur who created ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” used his love of basketball and his own experience growing up in America as the son of Taiwanese immigrants to carve out a story about a Chinese-American high school student in Queens (Taylor Takahashi) who dreams of playing in the NBA. But first, he must juggle a tumultuous home life, first love, a self-destructive personality, and a rivalry against the city’s best street baller played by the late rapper Bashar “Pop Smoke” Jackson.

Huang’s former personal assistant Taylor Takahashi delivers a natural performance as the film’s eponymous protagonist Alfred Chin who prefers his “stripper name” Boogie. He’s a talented athlete who dreams of playing in the NBA but without any scholarship offers, college seems a fantasy. His parents (Perry Yung and Pamelyn Chee) are weighed down with past due bills, so Boogie’s options are limited, and financial aid seems out of the question.

Boogie’s father Mr. Chin and uncle Jackie (played by Huang) are making money moves, transferring Boogie to City Prep so he’ll have a shot at playing against New York’s most promising star athlete Monk (Pop Smoke) hoping the matchup will catch the attention of college basketball recruiters. At least Boogie isn’t dreaming of being the next Kobe Bryant or Dwight Howard going directly from high school to the NBA.

Taylour Paige plays Boogie’s love interest Eleanor who can’t resist smooth pickup lines like the one he delivers while checking her out at the gym, “You got a pretty vagina.” The dialogue is laughable but also credible, just scroll through social media for validation. They eventually hook up in a scene devoid of any romance but then no one’s concerned with making love here just getting in a late-night f**k. There’s no chemistry between the two actors which doesn’t matter since the characters never develop a relationship that’s taken seriously.

“Boogie” gets plenty of street cred, people talk and act like this, and a blaring soundtrack courtesy of late rapper Pop Smoke, but in the confines of a coming-of-age sports drama one key element is missing, hope. There are no positive role models, the film makes no effort to break away from stereotypes, and these characters are so unlikeable that the audience never engages with the story. Even the big game during the finale feels like a letdown with no tension and lackluster action.

(2 stars)

Now showing in theaters

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic. 

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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