Disney has been known for a lot of things regarding their films and television series. Their channel had a bunch of popular shows. Now their streaming service is picking up from where the television channel left off. They have a lot of quality shows from Star Wars, Marvel and others. The latest series is called American Born Chinese. It has a lot of recognizable faces in front of and behind the camera.
The series focuses mainly on a high-school age-teenager Jin Wang (Ben Wang) He struggles to make his way through his sophomore year. He doesn’t get along with his parents, he has problems with students at school but when he meets a girl Amelia (Sydney Taylor) things start looking up for him. Until a strange new kid arrives on campus, Wei-Chen (Jim Liu) who has some secrets he’s harboring that could cause a huge problem for his new found friend.
Disney does a lot of coming-of-age shows. They have ranged from many different demographics. This one being mainly about Asian Americans, specifically Chinese, is a change for them. Getting Destin Daniel Cretton involved was a good choice. He has a good track record. .Throw Lucy Liu into the mix and show creator Kevin Yu has assembled some good directors to bring this series to life.
The show has a magical/mythological aspect to it. At times these aspects can be a little confusing. The coming-of-age stuff is much better fleshed out regarding the story and the arcs of the main and supporting characters. I cared more about the school and relationship stuff than the fantasy and magical stuff. That being said the cast were still steller in both aspects of the series. The cast is the main reason to see this show.
A domestic angle to the story may be one of the better parts of the show. The parents of the main character played by Shin Han and Yeo Yann Yann have problems with their relationship. These problems are passed on to their son. His issues in school and elsewhere aren’t as important as his relationship with his parents. This aspect of the show is very important for his and their character development. The writers Gene Yuen Yang, Kevin Yu and Charles Yu did a great job adding these elements into the series. Which correspond to some of the magical/ mythological parts of the show. Which makes a lot of sense.
The cast besides the younger actors is filled with big stars a lot of fans will know from a recent Academy Award Winning Best Picture. Three of them were nominated and two won Academy Awards for Everything Everywhere All at Once. Michelle Yoeh plays a witch but a good one who helps one of the main characters fulfill their potential. She enlists the help of Stephanie Hsu in one episode, her co-star in the film. And Key Huy Kwan has his own arc separate from the main plot of the show.
His arc is a bit strange regarding the rest of the series but it ties the whole thing together in the end. Kwan brings a comedic element to a show filled with action and teen angst. He has just brought something new to his career that makes me happy. The action sequences are pretty well choreographed and the teen coming of age stuff is the meat and potatoes of this pleasantly surprising show. I really enjoyed it. And I think fans of Everything Everywhere All at Once will surely like it as well. Disney and Disney Plus has a winner on its hands despite an element in the magical/ mythological stuff that can get a bit confusing at times.
3 ½ stars
Dan Skip Allen