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Friday, 13 October 2017

Retro Review: Fakin' Da Funk (1997)

Fakin' Da Funk
Cast: Dante Basco, Pam Grier, Margeret Cho, Duane Martin, Tichina Arnold, Tatiyana Ali
Genre: Comedy

Plot: An adopted Chinese teen and an Asian exchange student try to befriend peers in the Los Angeles hood

'Enjoyable Look At Multiculturalism In African-American & Asian-American Contexts'

An interracial comedy that explores the concept of identity in the context of culture, set in the South Central, Fakin' Da Funk is a satirical and wider look at what it is to be like as an Asian-American growing up and assimilating into African American culture. A mix-up at an adoption agency leads to a Chinese boy being sent to a Black family. Julian becomes accepted into the family and his Atlanta neighbourhood. It is when he relocates to South Central, L.A where his new neighbours think Julian is putting on an act. When they discover his actual roots and that he was brought up by a Black father and mother, that is when things come to a head for him and the people he surrounds himself with. 

As it's a comedy, the film does take the mick out of Black and Chinese culture, but it tends to be malicious, rather than deliberate. It's not an out and out comedy that makes you laugh a lot, but from a cultural aspect, it certainly makes one think about certain things. It did that for me. It is also considered as the first official Hollywood based Asian-Black movie and was released a year before Jackie Chan & Chris Tucker's Rush Hour. 

Julian acts far more like a Black person than his girlfriend, played by Tatyana Ali of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Dante was pretty good and he shows what a good actor he can be with a good story, which this movie has. 

As interesting in places as Fakin' Da Funk was, I do have a gripe with Dante Basco as Julian (who fans of the film, Hook will recognise, played Rufio): despite his good performance, he is Filipino - not Chinese, as well as that Margeret Cho is Korean. If one is to portray a particular race of people, this has to be reflected properly on screen. Julian could have been easily played by Chinese American Florida-born rapper/actor Jin Au-Yeung, who already appeared in 2 Fast 2 Furious & for me, he would be the better fit for Julian. 

But besides that inconsistency, Fakin' Da Funk was extremely watchable and entertaining with satisfying performances across the board and it goes about examining cross cultures and different races and despite the differences, how it doesn't get in the way of finding love, getting friends and being accepted by your family. I was a little apprehensive that the film would descend into racial mocking and where the comedy would be cringing, and yet as malicious as a lot of it was, that didn't become a burden on me.  

Though it is billed as a comedy, it has light-hearted moments and some good scenes, but it definitely tries to play things straight and it has a lot of heart and its message about the importance of accepting yourself and who you are, was good. 

Final Verdict:

Despite my concerns, such as the stereotypes of the gawky Asian student and being anxious at how this one would turn out, in the end, Fakin' Da Funk has good performances & a tightly well-conceived script that doesn't degenerate into foolishness or silliness. It's a look at multiculturalism and when African-American and Asian cultures come together, it's done so in a frank and straight to the point fashion with some light moments, whilst it also seeks to downplay on stereotypes. 

It is not an amazing film, but I certainly found it harmless entertainment and very enjoyable.


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