top of page

AMERICAN BORN CHINESE  |  Disney+  |  May 24, 2023

Starring:  Michelle Yeoh, Ben Wang, Yeo Yann Yann, Chin Han, Daniel Wu, Ke Huy Quan, Jim Liu, Sydney Taylor


Created By:  Kelvin Yu

Based on Gene Luen Yang’s ground-breaking graphic novel that chronicles the trials and tribulations of a regular American teenager whose life is forever changed when he befriends the son of a mythological god. This is the story of a young man’s battle for his own identity, told through family, comedy, and action-packed Kung-Fu.


American Born Chinese seamlessly blends comedy, martial arts action, Chinese mythology and a coming of age tale that with an outstanding cast, is a truly delightful season of television that audiences will devour.


Hot off the Oscar winning success of Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, the majority of the principal cast reunites for the latest Disney+ series from executive producer Destin Daniel Creston for a television adaption of the popular graphic novel series. And while it is not as genre bending as the Oscar winning film, it highlights Chinese culture and champions representation throughout, while telling a fantastical tale of conflict between the Chinese gods and the young teenager who finds himself in the middle of it. Imagine Percy Jackson and the Olympians but with Chinese mythology and Michelle Yeoh, and audiences should need to hear no more before they sit down to binge this truly enjoyable television series.


Jin Wang is your average high school student, struggling to fit in at school, crushing on the new girl Amelia, trying to ditch the new Taiwanese exchange student, Wei-Chen, that the principal has paired him with to show him around the school, and struggling with his parents at home who are pushing him a specific direction in life. But, when Jin discovers that Wei-Chen is actually a god here on Earth to discover the location of the mythic fourth scroll and only Jin can help him, Jin is pulled into a conflict between the Chinese gods that gives a whole new meaning to surviving high school.


The series has a lot of story going on, which constantly pulls viewers in different directions while watching the series. We have the brewing conflict between the gods, the family drama between both Jin, Wei-Chan and their respective parents, the high school drama, and the search for the mythical fourth scroll. While this is all happening, themes of family, culture and representation are sprinkled throughout the screenplay, including a subplot featuring a retro sitcom regaining popularity due to streaming and its portrayal of its Chinese star. At times, it is almost too much, but the show’s writers find an Amblin-esque magic, great comedic style and a heartfelt tone as it explores the show’s themes, countering the volume of plot lines occurring at once with pure entertainment value. The themes of representation shine through all aspects, especially the subplot featuring Ke Huy Quan’s actor Freddy Wong which delivers one of the show’s most beautiful moments in the seventh episode. And the show ends on a good cliffhanger, further expanding the world of the gods that should have fans itching for a second season!


Visually speaking, the show looks great. The costumes that bring to life the world of the gods are outstanding, capturing the fantastical realm of the gods in brilliant detail. Rather than relying on CGI to bring to life the mythical creatures that Jin encounters on his journey, prosthetics and makeup are used to bring to life the creatures, and the result is great. There is a wonder to the creatures, as well as a sense of danger that cannot be created effectively by CGI, that shows a true love for filmmaking among the series creative departments. And the fight sequences are brilliantly choreographed, delivering spectacle filled moments throughout the film as stars Michelle Yeoh and Daniel Wu unleash their excellent martial art talents.


Though, it is the cast that makes the show memorable. Young stars Ben Wang and Jimmy Liu are wonderful as Jin and Wei-Chen respectively, both capturing the struggles of being a teenager while creating great chemistry with each other and the rest of their co-stars. Yeo Yann Yann and Chin Han are delightful as Jin’s parents, capturing the struggles of their respective lifestyles and creating an emotional undercurrent to the show that makes them impossible not to fall in love with. Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong and Lisa Lu each have a memorable supporting moment, boasting a truly stacked supporting cast that create some truly scene stealing moments. But it is the show’s top billed cast that are the standouts. At this point, Yeoh should be cast in every franchise as she embodies these larger than life worlds better than any other actress. There is a grace and nobility to the way she carries herself as Guanyin, while having an infectious comedic energy that will have you laughing as she tries mundane human activities such as assembling an IKEA table. Wu is good as the Monkey King, capturing the aging king and his struggle to accept that his son is growing up and becoming the young man that he still thinks he is. And Quan is excellent as Freddy Wong, bringing that infectious positivity to the screen that we saw this past Oscar season, with the heartfelt and emotional moments that we saw during his speeches during the show’s seventh episode as his character gets the spotlight. 

Imaginative, action packed, hilarious, and flat out entertaining from start to finish, there is a magical quality to American Born Chinese that will make this an instant hit among viewers. Despite multiple storylines playing out at once that asks a lot of the audience at times, the earnest and heartfelt portrayal of the story’s themes combined with a truly magnificent cast led by the marvelous Michelle Yeoh should easily make American Born Chinese the newest YA series that is bound to take audiences by storm.

RATING  4 out of 5

bottom of page