“BOOGIE” delivers the full-feature debut for entrepreneur Eddie Huang as both director and writer in this coming-of-age story of Alfred ‘Boogie’ Chin (Taylor Takahashi). A second-generation Chinese-American with dreams of the NBA. What results is at times a heartfelt portrayal of a high-school phenom struggling between fitting in with his American surroundings, while still staying true to his cultural roots. However, it also falters in a few areas that unfortunately do have a substantial impact on the entertainment-value this one ultimately provides.
While the story has its issues, where I felt this film thrived was when it explored the family dynamics of the Chin’s. These were the most heartfelt and compelling moments. These scenes also navigate through aspects of the culture with sincerity that were thought-provoking for someone unfamiliar in the area. ‘Boogie’ has an ex-con father, and a stern mother, who both in their own way show a strong reliance on getting him a scholarship and eventually a possible career in the NBA. This naturally connects the viewer to the pressures put on a young man who is already dealing with a lot, which does open the door to a supportive connection with ‘Boogie’.
However, from there this one does start to fall apart and show some of the flaws that can come from a first-time writer/director. On the writing side, Huang could’ve added more depth and personality to the characters. It’s also one that lacks enough likable characters (‘Boogie’ included) to genuinely care about where this story goes. Sure ‘Boogie’ has a lot on his plate, but his arrogance and brash attitude, while possibly being defense-mechanisms, still make it hard to sympathize, or really like him at all. This is Takahashi’s first full-feature performance as well, and it shows at times as he would’ve benefited with more well-rounded writing for the character that he could draw from. But to his credit, he certainly makes the most from what he was given.
Because there is a hefty amount of clunky dialogue across the board that isn’t elevated by the performances which does result in some cringey moments. The progression of the story doesn’t make much sense from a basketball aspect either. ‘Boogie’ has an on-court rival in Monk played with a commanding screen presence by the late Pop Smoke, in his first and last performance. But the foundation of this ‘rivalry’ has glaring gaps from a writing aspect making it come off as a hollow plot-device. So, the sport phenom, and basketball angles of this story didn’t make much sense, thus never was able to infuse the film with ramifications, or a satisfying climax to build up to in the finale.
As for the on-court action, it was lacking as well. Despite the film telling me routinely that ‘Boogie’ was this touted star in the making, I never felt like I truly saw that. The basketball action was minimal already, and what it did provide was hindered by poor camera angles, frantic editing, and a cast that quite possibly didn’t have the true basketball skills needed to let the camerawork flow. Seeing good basketball in basketball movies is essential, and this one sadly didn’t provide that. With this ‘unsanctioned’ night game on the outdoor courts that translated to poor lighting and shadows which only added to the unpleasant viewing experience, during what should’ve been the more intense and impactful moments.
So, in the end, “Boogie” has its spots of sincerity. It’s a serviceable first-time outing for Huang who maybe tried to do too much. It has its share of issues that get in the way of the appeal, which will sadly make this a forgettable basketball movie, outside of it being the one and only performance from Pop Smoke. However, with a quick 89-minute run-time it does move swiftly.