'Anita Ho': Film Review

Courtesy of Indican Pictures
This Asian-American spin on "Meet the Parents" manages to charm despite its stereotypical elements

An unemployed screenwriter attempts to overcome the objections of his would-be fiancee's tradition-minded Chinese parents in Steve Myung's romantic comedy

A self-described Chinese-American riff on Meet the Parents, Anito Ho is a culture-clash comedy that manages to charm in spite of itself. Perhaps it's because the film is based on "some true events" in the lives of its director Steve Myung and his co-scripter/wife Lina So, who also co-star, lending the proceedings an air of authenticity that overcomes its cartoonish elements.

Myung plays Harry Ho, an unemployed screenwriter who's spent years working on a script about which he admits, "I don't even know what it's about." About to propose to his actress girlfriend Anita (So) on her 30th birthday, he travels with her to meet her family in Las Vegas.

He gets a less than cordial reception from her tradition-minded parents (George Cheung, Elizabeth Sung), who are initially put off when they discover that he doesn't speak Chinese. But they're even more horrified when he explains that the reason is that he's actually of Korean descent, with the family name having been changed when they immigrated.

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Even worse, he has no source of income, with the father, in-between bouts of table-tennis, pointedly asking, "How much on your W-2 last year?" The mother is also decidedly against the union, citing the virtues of arranged marriages.

And that's exactly what she tries to make happen when she meets the handsome and eligible doctor Laurence Wong (Brian Yang), who happens to have dated Anita when they were in high school. Clearly eager to resume the relationship, he happily accepts their invitation to join the family for Anita's birthday celebration.

Needless to say, tensions flare, with the two rivals even engaging in a sing-off competition that leads to an American Idol-inspired fantasy sequence. That it all ends happily is predictable both from romantic comedy conventions and the married status of the film's stars.

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Some of the humor is tired—Anita's younger brother (James To) is an aspiring rapper, as enamored of hip-hop culture as the eleven-year-old Eddie in the new sitcom Fresh Off the Boat—so we're inevitably treated to a scene in which he tries to show off his skills. And a romantic montage set to a peppy pop song feels almost like a parody, but unfortunately isn't one.

Still, the two leads are undeniably appealing, and veteran performers Cheung and Sung manage to wrest some laughs from their stereotypical roles. Anita Ho doesn't exactly break any new ground, but it provides an amusing spin on its tried-and-true formula.

Production: Bumper Car Films, Integrated Productions
Cast: Steve Myung, Lina So, George Cheung, Elizabeth Sung, Brian Yang
Director/editor: Steve Myung
Screenwriters: Steve Myung, Lina So
Producer: Andrew W. Chan
Executive producers: David Kang, Steve Myung, Lina So
Director of photography: Matt Chavez
Production designer: Alex Miskei
Costume designers: Marjorie Bautista, Marisa Pinuelas
Composers: Brain Manita, Melissa Reese
Casting: Lina So

No rating, 83 min.