American Born Chinese is a coming-of-age fantasy series that follows Jin Wang, a high schooler who is learning more about who he is when he gets involved in an uprising in heaven. The series is streaming on Disney+.
Jin Wang is a high schooler that just wants to live a normal life playing sports and spending with his friends but he doesn’t get his wish after Wei-Chen enters his life. Wei-Chen is actually a monkey from heaven who has come to Earth on a quest.
He is in search of the mythical fourth scroll of power and believes that Jin will be his guide to the scroll because of a dream that he had. Jin wants to help but is more focused on his life which seems to be crumbling around him.
Jin’s parents are going through a rough patch and this is affecting Jin as well. He has a crush on a friend but she initially says that they should remain friends.
Jin goes through a journey of self-discovery that ends in jubilation at the Autumn Equinox as he helps defeat a great enemy.
Ben Wang could not have performed better as an awkward teenager who doesn’t know exactly where he belongs and acts out when under pressure. Wang shows a lot of maturity in his performance as Jin.
Jim Liu plays Wei-Chen, and he has the right amount of enthusiasm for the character but he doesn’t impress in the same way. Liu gives it his best efforts and that must be commended.
Yeo Yann Yann and Chin Han are authentic as Jin’s parents. Their struggles are very real and Yann Yann and Han encompass that struggle brilliantly.
Leonard Wu isn’t too convincing as a villain and doesn’t bring anything new or spectacular to the role.
The story is two-pronged, Jin’s normal life and the fantasy adjacent uprising. Jin’s life follows the right path and that is down to the writers who have charted it well.
There are very specific creative elements used in the series with 90s sitcoms and south-east Asian martial arts movies as the main influence for how it is depicted. They’ve succeeded in capturing that vibe perfectly.
The fight choreography and cinematography are exquisite. The entire flashback sequence of episode 4 is a treat to watch as it showcases a style that isn’t seen too often these days.
The fantasy aspect of the story doesn’t land as well as the main plot line. There just isn’t enough interest and the fact that they find out the villain’s plan from a manga shows how derivative it is.
Ke Huy Quan’s subplot is a strange decision to include, even if it does eventually tie into the main story. It exists simply for someone as talented as Ke to give an impassioned speech that inspires our protagonist.
American Born Chinese is a valiant effort to adapt a graphic novel and elements of Chinese folklore but those aren’t the aspects of the series that make it worth watching. The growth of Jin Wang as a character and the relationship dynamics of his family and the people around him are the true high points of this great series that does just enough to keep the audience invested in more.
American Born Chinese
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton, Dinh Thai, Dennis Liu, Peng Zhang, Johnson Cheng, Lucy Liu, Erin O'Malley
Date Created: 2023-05-24 12:30