Monday, February 23, 2015

Anita Ho: Meeting the Parents

What kid wouldn’t want to date a Power Ranger? What guy wouldn’t be interested in a woman like Anita Lee? Maybe one who has met her parents. Harry Ho is about to have the dubious pleasure, but since he is Korean rather than Chinese, it will be a difficult getting-to-know-you process in Steve Myung’s Anita Ho (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

Harry is really a Korean Oh, but when his family came through immigration, it was changed to a Chinese-sounding (and more easily mocked) Ho. After a while, they got tired of fighting it. Unfortunately, this leads to some initial awkwardness when he first meets his girlfriend Anita’s parents, the Lees—and it only goes downhill from there. Needless to say, they want their daughter to marry a good Chinese boy. That means a doctor or a lawyer. An employed writer just does not cut it.

Technically, Ho is a freelancer, who quit his gig on Lee’s “Power Raiders” kiddie action show to write his screenplay. That has not been working out so well. At least, his relationship with Lee has been fulfilling. In fact, he intends to pop the question while they are visiting for her special thirtieth birthday banquet, but her parents will do everything they can to belittle and undermine him.

Just about anyone who was ever raked over the coals by their date’s dad on prom night should be able to relate to Anita Ho on some level. Of course, they never had to face George Cheung (the notorious Lt. Tay in Rambo: First Blood II and senior member of the Awesome Asian Bad Guys). Unimpressed with the mild-mannered Ho, Mr. Lee will actually try to fix his daughter up with a former classmate. Yes, he happens to be a doctor.

So maybe we have all been there, but director-co-writer Myung just cranks up the cringe factor when appearing as Ho. By the time the film is over that poor cat’s back is covered in “kick me” signs. He has some pleasant romantic chemistry with co-writer Lina So Myung, but it eventually becomes difficult to buy into them as a couple, while he wallows in humiliation and she essentially lets it happen. The Myungs also apparently dig romantic montages, because they are not stingy with them (though they really probably should have been).

Lina So Myung truly lights up the screen as Lee, while Cheung and Elizabeth Sung have their moments as the demanding parents. However, it is Kenny Waymack, Jr. who gives us something to latch onto as Lee’s Filipino brother-in-law and tough talking audience surrogate, Tyson Bautista. It is nice to see a film advocate inclusiveness, but some of the broad humor falls a bit flat. Frankly, the film would have been better served by a little more romantic courtship and a little less shtick. It is also cool to see the telegenic Myungs making their own opportunities. Nevertheless, Anita Ho is strictly a date-night kind of movie when it opens this Friday (2/27) at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena.