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Film Review: ‘White Frog’

A somewhat heavy-handed yet rather endearing lesson in various kinds of tolerance that should do OK in home formats

Booboo Stewart, BD Wong, Harry Shum Jr., Gregg Sulkin, Joan Chen, Tyler Posey, Manish Dayal, Kelly Hu, Talulah Riley, Amy Hill, Justin Martin, David Henry Hwang, Phil Abrams, Ron McCoy.

Earnest drama “White Frog” centers on a 15-year-old with Asperger syndrome coping with his outgoing older brother’s death. Less edgy than the movies director Quentin Lee has written himself, this somewhat heavy-handed yet rather endearing lesson in various kinds of tolerance should do OK in home formats. It opened on two Los Angeles screens May 10.

Popular, athletic high schooler Chaz Young (Harry Shum Jr.) is the light of several people’s lives — none more than that of little bro Nick (Booboo Stewart), whose painful social awkwardness has shut him off from nearly everyone else. When Chaz is killed by a drunk driver, Nick is inconsolable, while his parents (Joan Chen, BD Wong) flounder in their own ways. Seeking some postmortem connection, the boy is taken in by his sibling’s best friends, invited to their weekly “study group” (actually poker and drinking sessions) by kindly Doug (Tyler Posey). The others are less welcoming at first, especially rich kid Randy (Gregg Sulkin), whose relationship with the late Chaz turns out to have been more intimate than
anyone knew.

Ellie and Fabienne Wen’s script is of the type that sometimes seems like a compilation of political correctitudes — there’s even a lesbian-managed inner-city youth community center putting on a hip-hop dance show— and the AfterSchool Special-style instructional klutziness risks silliness at times (particularly when Nick delivers a big speech at the end, adding to cinema’s long history of manipulating diagnosed mental-illness conditions every which way for narrative convenience). Corny as all this seems, however, “White Frog” nonetheless has a sweet-natured guilelessness that ultimately trumps its
myriad flaws — or will, if approached without too cynical a mindset.

Perfs are decent if occasionally pushed over the top; assembly is polished, if a bit blandly so.

Film Review: 'White Frog'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, May 9, 2013. Running time: 93 MIN.

Production: A Wolfe Releasing release of a Wentertainment Prods. and Chris Lee Prods. presentation in association with Preferred Content. Produced by Chris Lee, Joel Soisson, Ellie Wen. Executive producers, David Henry Hwang, Kevin Iwashina. Co-producer, Stanley Yung.

Crew: Directed by Quentin Lee. Screenplay, Fabienne Wen, Ellie Wen. Camera (color, HD), Yasu Tanida; editor, Matthew Rundell; music, Steven Pranoto; production designer, Ermando DiFebo-Orsini; costume designer, Michelle Wang; set decorator, Marina Starec; sound, James Ridgley; supervising sound designer/re-recording mixer, Kenneth L. Johnson; assistant director, Evan L. Robichaud; casting, Brad Gilmore.

With: Booboo Stewart, BD Wong, Harry Shum Jr., Gregg Sulkin, Joan Chen, Tyler Posey, Manish Dayal, Kelly Hu, Talulah Riley, Amy Hill, Justin Martin, David Henry Hwang, Phil Abrams, Ron McCoy.

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