Can a 49-year-old Asian-American divorcee find true happiness with a middle-aged Mexican-American dentist? Give that extended-family culture clash stories usually have happy endings (Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story are exceptions, of course), the chances are good. In the overcrowded and good-natured American Fusion, two California families collide, and much, as they say, is learned.
Meet the cast: Yvonne (Sylvia Chang), the meek woman looking for love, has her hands full taking care of her aged Chinese mother (Lang Yun); her volatile ex-con brother Tony (Collin Chou), who is having trouble conceiving a baby with his wife; her sister, whose son Steve (James Chang) is a stripper; and her 28-year-old son Josh (Randall Park), who is utterly unmotivated in life.
While trying to sell classified ads for the local rag she works for (it's owned by a toupee-wearing Pat Morita in one of his final appearances), she meets the hunky Dr. Jose (Esai Morales), a charming Mexican-American dentist to whom she's immediately attracted. It's mutual, but when the two start dating tentatively (bowling!), her family, and most notably her judgmental and busybody mother, is having none of it. Through her eyes, Jose looks like a dirty Frito Bandito, complete with sombrero and stinking cigar. It's one of the movie's major points: Even victims of racism have no problem being racist themselves. For his part, Jose's family, which has eerie parallels to Sylvia's, is far more laid back and accepting.
When Grandma's health declines, Steve's fertility problem hits the boiling point, Steve's stripper life is discovered, and Josh is sent off to China to get motivated, it's Sylvia who is called upon to hold everything together, even as she tries to make her romance work. Everyone races around with increasing velocity until the inevitable happy ending emerges from all the confusion.
American Fusion goes down easy. It's not particularly funny, angry, or insightful, but the families are entertaining, and the semi-legend Chang (anyone who appeared in Eat, Drink, Man, Woman is a legend to me) carries the film effortlessly. In fact, the entire cast seems to be having lots of fun, and there are plenty of weird moments to enjoy, such as when Collin Chou (much better known as a Hong Kong kung fu killer than a supporting player in American rom-coms) pleads with his wife to have sex in a contraption that will have them hanging upside down "because that's how bats do it and bats have lots of children." And then they actually do it! It's weird comedic moments like that (plus Pat Morita's toupee) that make American Fusion worth a look.
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