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American in China, An (DVD Review)

18 Nov, 2009 By: Billy Gil

Street 11/24/09
$24.98 DVD
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some suggestive content and language.
Stars James Snyder, Fei Fei Sun, Anthony Montgomery, Michael Gross, Priscilla Barnes.

This coming-of-age story tells of an aimless college grad who travels to Shanghai to help with his father’s business in an East-meets-West melodrama.

David (James Snyder of She’s the Man) is the snotty American who’s had everything handed to him on a silver platter, ignoring his Stanford education to work as a volleyball promoter. At his parents’ urging — and to flee his crappy girlfriend — he heads to Shanghai and finds his minimal Chinese and haplessness are a hindrance at helping him do much more than frustrate the locals.

Enter Mei (Chinese superstar Fei Fei Sun), a beautiful young factory worker who becomes David’s interpreter and muse, inspiring him to succeed at helping his father’s business and finding a direction in life.

Although the film has a mostly cheery and lighthearted attitude reminiscent of Cold War era teen dramedies, viewers unfortunately are subjected to cultural and racial stereotypes about bumbling, simple-minded Americans as well as sycophantic and even silly Chinese people. James Snyder, who reminds me of Topher Grace with a bad haircut, isn’t very likeable as David. And much like David and his lack of ambition, the film misses its chance — it could have hit the sweet spot where Lost in Translation mixes with The Graduate. The best it does is offer a pleasant plotline and some cool shots and perhaps some of the feel of Shanghai.

Be on the lookout for former TV stars such as Anthony Montgomery (“Star Trek: Enterprise”), Michael Gross (“Family Ties”) and Priscilla Barnes (“Three’s Company”).

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