‘American Born Chinese’ Review: We’re All Walt’s Children

When it was published 17 years ago, Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel American Born Chinese was singular in several ways. In using Chinese mythology to amplify and deepen the narrative of immigrant anomies and identities. And we told the story in a stop-and-start fashion, like a collage. Perhaps it was more rewarding than provocative, but both its novelty and earnestness set it apart.

8 episodes Disney+ series “American Born Chinese,” loosely based on Yang’s book, premieres Wednesday in a very different, if not another world, pop culture setting. Its Asianness is notable, but nothing new. Two members of the cast, Michelle Yeoh and Kay Huy Kuan, won Oscars in March for their latest milestone in Asian or Asian-themed film scores, Everything Everywhere All at Once. and a third Stephanie Hsu was nominated). – TV waves. As of 2023, it’s more of a surprise than a surprise that the list of American Born Chinese writers and directors is mostly Asian.

All of this means that while “American Born Chinese” offers a lot of what you can expect, it also has a textured depiction of suburban life for first- and second-generation immigrants, a flashy incorporation of classic characters, and more. It’s a long way to get to the point. The Chinese novel Journey to the West, which critiques Hollywood’s history of racist portrayals of Asians, no longer defines or defines the experience of watching or thinking about movies. It does not define The operative word here is Disney, not American or Chinese. And the most important fusion is not an Eastern-Western fusion, but a wholly commercial fusion between school drama and martial arts-infused superhero action.

So, the somewhat disappointing report is that, 17 years later, American Born Chinese is still the quintessential half-hour teen comic-drama-supernatural adventure series. On the positive side, the core family—teenager Jin Wang (Ben Wang) and his parents, Christine and Simon (Yo Yang Yang and Ching Han)—is sensitively portrayed and well-acted. is applied, and the naturalistic part of the story is drawn. The works, which focus on Jin’s conflicts in their home life and school, often have humor and a quiet but definite emotional pull.

Traditional family tales are the show’s most prominent feature, as Kelvin Yu, creator of “American Born Chinese,” adapted the Fox animated comedy “Bob’s,” which has been popular for over a decade. No wonder, considering he’s been the longtime producer and writer of Burgers. The funniest, sharpest, sweetest show on television about American families.

On the downside, the show’s elements echo the graphic novel trilogy. They’re polished and cleverly put together, but lack the imagination and power necessary to pull this series out of its above-average grooves.

A modern sequel to Journey to the West’s Monkey King story, the mythological plot is fully integrated into the modern story and standardized in Disney Marvel fashion as the adventures of the best friends, who alternate between jokes and violence. ing. Rich special effects, martial arts wirework, and creature make-up. The Monkey King’s son, Weichen (Jim Liu), comes to Earth on a quest involving Jin. The supernatural story points are cleverly but unimaginatively tied into the usual teen drama checklist (pledge party, billiards party, big game) and the blaring “Save High School.” It leads to the finale of.

With famous actors such as Ronnie Chen, James Hong, Su and Jimmy O. Yang playing gods and demons, but set in heaven and depicted in a Shaw Brothers-esque style, nearly episode-length Even in the sequence of , the characters are broadly drawn and difficult to bring to life. Hong Kong epic. Only Yo, with her supernatural charm and witty humor as Goddess Kannon, has made a big impression.

The series also includes the highly stereotyped Lon Doc Dong-like character, perhaps as a stand-in for the conceptualized section of the graphic novel featuring a shape-shifting character with the provocative name Chin Kee. It even incorporates scenes from an invented decades-old sitcom starring the protagonist. An Asian geek (played by Kuan). This element ultimately breaks the show-within-a-show framework and emerges within the story itself, clarifying the series’ more nuanced points about racism and stereotypes. But it’s done in a polite, self-conscious way. (The series as a whole feels like a Disney-esque balancing act when it comes to racism. In Jin’s high school experience, aggression is not prejudice or anger, but an ongoing result of ignorance. depicted in.)

“American Born Chinese” is easy to watch, but it’s just as easy not to watch it. “American Born Chinese” seeks to charm you in ways that might work, or might flinch at its familiarity. The Asianness is demonstrated by clever gags about saving packs of soy sauce and not eating a lot of rice. Theresa Teng appears on the soundtrack when Emotions is Called. What this shows most clearly is that in the modern market, coming-of-age clichés easily move across cultural boundaries.

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