Winner of top honors at the 1999 Houston fest, "Catfish in Black Bean Sauce" is a tasty but insubstantial dish that likely will appear on homevideo and pay cable menus. The debut effort of Vietnamese-born Chi Muoi Lo, who wrote, directed and produced in addition to playing a lead role, pic benefits greatly from casting of vets Paul Winfield and Mary Alice as an African-American couple who, years earlier, adopted two Vietnamese siblings. Now in their 20s, the adoptees eagerly await the L.A. arrival of their long-lost birth mother.

Winner of top honors at the 1999 Houston fest, “Catfish in Black Bean Sauce” is a tasty but insubstantial dish that likely will appear on homevideo and pay cable menus. The debut effort of Vietnamese-born Chi Muoi Lo, who wrote, directed and produced in addition to playing a lead role, pic benefits greatly from casting of vets Paul Winfield and Mary Alice as an African-American couple who, years earlier, adopted two Vietnamese siblings. Now in their 20s, the adoptees eagerly await the L.A. arrival of their long-lost birth mother.

Helmer plays Dwayne, who has steeped himself in contemporary black culture and is engaged to an African-American beauty (Sanaa Lathan). His sister (Lauren Tom) is more traditional, having married an older Asian-American businessman (Tzi Ma). Culture clashes are presented with equal measures of humor and sensitivity, but “Catfish” is too mild-mannered and fuzzily focused for its own good. It spends too much time on an unfunny subplot involving Dwayne’s roommate (Tyler Christopher) and a possible transsexual, and devotes too little time to the profoundly mixed emotions cued by the reconciliation between the siblings and their not entirely sympathetic mother (Kieu Chinh).

Catfish In Black Bean Sauce

Production

A Black Hawk Entertainment production. Produced, directed, written by Chi Muoi Lo.

Crew

Camera (FotoKem color), Dean Lent; editor, Dawn Hoggatt; music, Stanley A. Smith; production designer, Skyler J.D. Adler; associate producer, Stanley Yung. Reviewed at WorldFest/Houston Film Festival, April 14, 1999. Running time: 119 MIN.

With

Paul Winfield, Mary Alice, Chi Muoi Lo, Lauren Tom, Kieu Chinh, Sanaa Lathan, Tyler Christopher, Tzi Ma, George Wallace, Wing Chen.

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