Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Miguel Wants to Fight, on Hulu

Miguel might be Generation Z, but at least he has ambition. He is tired of watching like a freeloader, while his friends leap into scuffles, to protect each other’s’ backs. He must be quick about, because his parents will be moving to a new city and they are obviously taking him with them in Oz Rodriguez’s Miguel Wants to Fight, which premieres tomorrow on Hulu.

Ironically, Miguel’s father is a boxing trainer, but he strongly discourages street fighting. Nevertheless, Miguel’s friends, Cass, Srini, and David (the son of a late boxing legend, who trained with Miguel’s dad) always “jump in” when somebody starts mixing it up with one of their gang. Up to now, they never noticed that Miguel never jumped in with them. It still really doesn’t bother them, but Miguel considers it a grave failing.

Given Miguel’s massive fandom for martial arts films, his previous reluctance to fight makes him feel hypocritical. He also believes he has let down his friends. However, they think they are humoring him, by assisting his campaign to debut as a brawler. Since Miguel is a nice guy, he needs to provoke someone else to throw the first punch. He has a few old bullies who would make good candidates, but absolutely not the hulking Damien Delgado. Of course, he should really just tell his friends the truth about his impending relocation, so they can make the most of their remaining time together.

In some ways, it is too bad Rodriguez’s film is skipping a theatrical release and heading straight to Hulu, because it would have had a lot of critical support. The banter between the Fab Four friends is appealing and the cinematic references are hip and clever. For each prospective foe, Miguel envisions their potential showdowns in the style of an iconic film or anime, including
Enter the Dragon, The Matrix, and One Punch Man.

It is all very earnest and amusing, but the film definitely wears its DEI heart on its sleeve. There are only two white-anglo characters of note and they are both stereotypes: the racist bully and the ultra-white bread “nicest guy” in school (whom Miguel’s friends are appalled he is considering fighting). Be that as it may, Christian Vunipola, Imani Lewis, and Suraj Partha are wildly charismatic as David, Cass, and Srini. Frankly, they often outshine the sullen lead.

Fortunately, the adults are not stupid. In fact, Raul Castillo and Dascha Polanco add heart as well as maturity playing Miguel’s dad and homeroom teacher. It is a nice little film, especially for marital arts movie fans, but its still no
Karate Kid. Recommended for teen movie geeks, Miguel Wants to Fight starts streaming tomorrow (8/15) on Hulu.