June 17, 2024

American Born Chinese Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online

American Born Chinese
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American Born Chinese Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online

This supernatural high school drama might star Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and co – but its real joy is the exquisite chemistry of lead duo Ben Wang and Jimmy Liu

Being a teenager can feel like being at war. Navigating high-school hierarchies requires tactics and courage, knowing which battles to fight as well as when to retreat.

For Jin Wang (Ben Wang), the goal is to win the war to be seen as normal, maybe get a minor place at the cool kids’ table and perhaps even go on a date or two. As a second-generation Chinese American in a predominantly white environment, this is not without its additional difficulties. He finds himself having to thank schoolmates for telling him their favourite band is the South Korean boyband BTS and assure them that it is OK to laugh at Asian American stereotypes on TV because the show is being “ironic”. When a new Chinese student, Wei-Chen (Jimmy Liu), joins the school, the principal makes Jin responsible for him as she can see they have “so much in common”.

Deflating micro-aggression aside, Wei-Chen’s arrival means that, on top of dealing with being a Chinese American teen in a largely white town, plus his parents’ crumbling marriage, Jin is now involved in a war being fought in “the Heavenly Realm”. Wei Chen is, in fact, the son of the Monkey King, who has stolen his father’s magical staff and come to Earth to find the “guide” that appeared to him in a dream.

But the staff is needed in the Heavenly Realm, as the Jade Emperor and his supporters, including the Monkey King, are battling an uprising led by the Bull Demon. While there is plenty to like about the show, including great chemistry between Wang and Liu, and some fantastically acrobatic fight scenes, it is stark how much less compelling the actual war is than the high school one.

Much of the attention before the launch of American Born Chinese – an adaptation of the celebrated 2006 graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang – focused on the reunion of the cast of Everything Everywhere All at Once. Michelle Yeoh is perfectly cast as Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, convincingly a goddess at all times, but hilarious in the real world, where she is passing as human and helping Wei-Chen on his quest to find his guide. Yeoh gets a chance to show off her fighting skills, but is equally fun trying to assemble an Ikea coffee table, saying in her frustration: “I have eased the suffering of millions and calmed oceans – I will not be defeated by Swedish furniture.”

The rest of the Everything Everywhere All at Once crew have more minor roles. Fellow Oscar-winner Ke Huy Quan plays an actor whose career has stalled after a stint playing an infamously problematic Asian stereotype in a classic American sitcom. Stephanie Hsu is a Shiji Niangniang, a cunning jeweller/demoness, while James Hong is the Jade Emperor.

But the reunion has been overhyped. While each actor lights up the screen, the real stars of the show are Liu and Wang, who are charismatic and charming in every scene, selling the comedy with subtlety and precision. The bond they form and the strength they give each other to navigate high school – and their dysfunctional families – is sweet and convincing.

Episode four is an absolute riot. It acts as a bottle episode to tell the origin of the rivalry between the Monkey King and the Bull Demon. It is shot and performed in an extremely silly sitcom style, where a Heavenly Realm office party goes terribly wrong and comes complete with its own funky theme song (“He’s just a monkey looking for a bash. Tonight he’ll get funky, time to make a splash”). The assortment of gods’ interactions are hilarious and petty; the series’ best line must go to Hong, who in this episode plays the Jade Emperor as an obnoxious boss and gets on stage to say: “I want to say something to my wife … I never loved you.”

Unfortunately, every other trip to the Heavenly Realm is a snooze. The CGI is laptop-screensaver level and the fight sequences feel featherlight and inconsequential. The stakes are too nebulous and it is near impossible to care much about the outcome of an uprising that is spoken about but never really depicted. Some of the mythical creatures’ appearances resemble cheap Halloween masks, particularly the Bull Demon’s true face, which is jarringly unconvincing and works only in the camp fun of episode four.

American Born Chinese Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online