With every coming-of-age story, there is always a protagonist that audiences can relate to. With “Boogie,” writer and director Eddie Huang takes this trend and makes a basketball film that fans outside of the sport can connect with.
Featuring the likes of Taylor Takahashi and Pop Smoke, “Boogie” follows the life of high school senior Boogie (Takahashi) in Queens, N.Y. as he aiming to get to the NBA while also dealing with a tumultuous home life. In order for Boggie’s chances of making the NBA to become a reality, he and his high school team must beat Monk (Pop Smoke) in a game of basketball to prove that he is a qualified player.
The David and Goliath narrative Huang presents to audience members is as common as Stephen Curry shooting a three-pointer. What’s less common is the visualization of the common story arc. Having an Asian-American main character in a broken household is not often seen in modern cinema, let alone sports cinema.
Takahashi brings out the angst of being in high school while also transmitting the drive and hunger of being a future basketball star. Boogie even goes after NBA champion Jeremy Lin for being a “model minority” and despises comparisons to him.
Takahashi’s character ark is also inspiring as he starts off as a selfish and aggressive prospect who’s vision was blinded by ambivalence and later becomes a driven star.
As for Pop Smoke, while his role was limited and Monk’s background was scarce, his ability to be a convincing hooper and intimidating bully made every scene featuring him a highlight. The strangest coincidence during “Boogie” happened when Pop Smoke’s song “Welcome to the Party” played during the climactic basketball match where Monk takes on Boogie.
Where the film starts to draw fouls is when it attempts to execute Boogie’s relationship with his parents. Fight scenes between Boogie’s parents become overwhelming and distracting, especially during a scene in which Boogie is speaking with an agent about playing basketball in China.
Some of the basketball scenes also felt amateur. An example is during the final matchup between Monk and Boogie, layups are the most common shot used during the match. It is understandable that the actors involved are not professional basketball players, but at least have the actors attempt for jump shots during the games being played.
Boogie’s relationships with his friends are also decent but they are not memorable compared to other films in the same genre. Eleanor (Taylour Paige) plays the role of Boogie’s friend and later love and while her backstory could have been better developed, Paige does the best she can given the script and her role. Boogie’s friend Richie (Jorge Lendebor Jr.) provides moral support throughout the story but his background is even less developed than Eleanor’s. Lendebor Jr. has a promising career as an actor as his charisma kept me engaged with his friendship with Boogie.
It is no surprise that “Boogie” is a predictable movie and most of its technical features like editing and lighting are ordinary. Despite its shortcomings, “Boogie” is an enjoyable story of a young man surviving a toxic household to pursue his dreams of being a professional basketball player.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars