Boogie Review: This Basketball Drama Can’t Jump


I am and always will be a total sucker for sports films. The latest addition to the genre comes from celebrity chef and author, Eddie Huang. Unfortunately, his feature debut is a ridiculous cliché of a film—even by basketball drama standards. This basketball tale is more of an airball than a slam dunk.

Boogie follows high school athlete, Alfred “Boogie” Chin (Taylor Takahashi), one of the best basketball players in New York City. Unfortunately, the collegiate demand for Asian basketball players is slim-to-none. He’s under tremendous pressure to be the best in every game, but the recruitment letters still aren’t coming his way. Showing off to gain more attention, Kyle only alienates his teammates and coach, which results in his mother (Pamelyn Chee) taking control away from his out-on-bail father (Perry Yung) and pushing Boogie towards a different path to the NBA.

As a character, Alfred “Boogie” Chin is young, driven, and so very cocky. Yet for all of his swagger, he’s vulnerable and desperately searching for a place to belong. While Boogie manages to capture the struggles of getting to the NBA, it never manages to rise above its weak, formulaic script. As it was so eloquently chronicled in the documentary Hoop Dreams, only a tiny percentage of high school stars ever play in college, let alone in the NBA. However, kids like Boogie can’t help but hope to play in the Association. 

Boogie - Taylor Takahashi and Taylour Paige

As a narrative, Boogie is one part Above the Rim and another part He Got Game. The story does get a bit crowded, though, and some plotlines get pushed aside. When Boogie Chin gets an offer to join the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association), that takes over the narrative, and his relationship with Eleanor (Taylour Paige), although it starts strong, fizzles and never goes anywhere. The same can be said of Boogie’s relationship with his parents. There are potentially so many narrative roads to travel here, but they exist as little more than a plot point and are quickly relegated to side characters once their story purpose is completed. As a result of all this, our perspective of Boogie is thus significantly divided. A more effective film would have us more empathetically aligned with his character. I’m not even sure where the heart of this story lies, but I’m quite sure of the places where it isn’t.

None of this would have mattered had Boogie Chin been written with a less grating personality, but Huang and Takahashi fall short of making him as fascinating a figure. Every convoluted plotline is foreshadowed so far in advance, from his father pushing him to go to college to his mother pushing him to go to the CBA. The mechanical parts of the story don’t serve Takahashi as well, and you know what’s going to happen because you’ve seen this story before.

Overall, Eddie Huang’s aim in mounting a basketball drama that also wants to be a probing family drama has the aggravating tendency to believe it’s stating one thing when the whole indicates quite another. Even when the stereotypical inspirational theme of “never giving up” rears its ugly head, the bits of genuine feeling is lost. Not to mention, any instance of Boogie‘s heart is buried so deep that audiences are left with nothing but an empty, hollow film.

Rating: 2/5 atoms

Boogie hits theaters on March 5th.

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