Powered by a strong hip-hop-flavored soundtrack, “Fakin’ Da Funk” is an energetic, highly likable comedy about the sparks that fly when an adopted Chinese kid and an Asian exchange student find themselves trying to make friends with the boyz in the hood. The abundance of comic moments helps keep writer-director Tim Chey’s feel-good message about racial harmony from becoming too earnest, although the storytelling is a tad predictable. Chey’s debut feature is likely to garner interest on the fest circuit, but it might not have the requisite dance-floor moves to convince distribs to take a chance on it. Its funky charms may work better on the small screen.
Tale begins with Joe Lee (Ernie Hudson) and Annabelle Lee (Pam Grier) freaking out as they learn that the baby they’re adopting is Chinese rather than black. The father, who is a preacher, dies while his adopted son, Julian (Dante Basco), is still quite young, and the family decides to pack up and move from Atlanta to L.A.
Julian is an adolescent by now, and his new neighbors are more than a little perplexed by the new kid on the block who looks Asian but talks, acts and plays basketball like he has lived his entire life in South Central. In a parallel plot, foreign-exchange student May-Ling (Margaret Cho) is as perplexed as the Lee parents were at the adoption agency when she discovers that she is being housed with a black family in South Central.
Lion’s share of the running time is devoted to Julian and May-Ling’s difficult experiences adapting to their new environment. May-Ling’s cross-cultural hegira leans closer to straightforward comedy, while Julian’s difficulties are played somewhat more seriously. Julian also has to deal with the problems caused by his younger brother, Perry (Rashaan Nall), who has taken up with local gangstas led by Frog (Tone Loc).
Chey keeps it grooving along at a good pace with lots of laughs along the way, making for a fun, if fairly light, look at a complicated subject. The subplot involving Perry and the drug dealers works least well, serving only to clutter the last section of the film. Cast is uniformly strong, particularly Cho, who is frequently downright hilarious as the clueless but endearing May-Ling, and many of the smaller roles are also memorable, most notably Grier as Julian’s mom.
The upbeat soundtrack includes funk numbers, hip-hop tunes and occasional Asian instrumentals.