‘Boogie’ Review: There’s No Laughing in Basketball

Basketball is no laughing matter in the coming-of-age drama “Boogie.” Boogie Chin (Taylor Takahashi) is a basketball prodigy playing on his New York City high school’s mediocre team. His dream is to play in the N.B.A., but uncertainty over his college prospects makes Boogie’s future a constant subject of negotiation at home. Boogie’s mother wants security, and his father wants to keep dreaming. Boogie wants to prove himself to anyone who thinks he’s not worth the investment.

As the family prepares for Boogie’s showdown with a local basketball star, Monk (Bashar “Pop Smoke” Jackson, in his first and last film role), Boogie considers his future and what it means to be a Chinese-American man.

“Boogie” makes for a confident feature debut from the writer and director Eddie Huang, who is best known for creating the sitcom “Fresh Off The Boat.” But “Boogie” bears little resemblance to that earlier broad comedy. Boogie takes himself and his basketball ambitions seriously. And, taking cues from its protagonist, the movie doesn’t play around with cinematic craft or technique either.

The images in this film don’t haunt or linger in the imagination, but Huang makes an effort to keep them fresh. The film is full of rich colors, soft lighting and visually balanced frames. The characters flex in color-blocked jerseys and glittering chains, and the basketball games are well-choreographed.

The movie’s seriousness does have its drawbacks. There is a sense of posturing toughness to Boogie as a character that the movie also displays. And while it gives Boogie space to be introspective about his identity, it is less considered when it comes to its Black characters. It’s a competent movie, but it doesn’t quite make it to the big leagues.

Rated R for language and sexual references. Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes. In theaters. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.

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