As one of those people who has tried to ignore every aspect of the Twilight books series and the movies the books begat, I totally missed that Booboo Stewart was something of a teen idol. Stewart stars in “White Frog,” an Asian American film that just aches with good intentions, but in trying to serve so many causes becomes too scattered to really say anything.
Stewart is a local boy. Born in Beverly Hills. He’s Japanese, Chinese and Korean on his maternal side and then Native American, Russian and Scottish on his paternal side. More importantly for Twilight fans, he was Seth Clearwater in “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn.” To be clear, Seth is not a vampire, but a werewolf and eventually a friend to Edward and Bella.
As a “Law & Order” fan, I was more interested in seeing BD Wong and as a first season “Glee” fan, I also wanted to see Harry Shum, Jr. Wong and Shum don’t appear nearly enough because the movie is about Stewart’s character, Nick Young.
Nick Young is a high school freshman with more problems than most. He suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome which lately seems like a popular choice for creating uncomfortable or comical situations in TV shows and movies. Nick looks up to his big brother, Chaz (Shum). Chaz dies in an accident, leaving the whole family in mourning. Father Oliver (Wong) and mother Irene (Joan Chen) don’t know how to help Nick who doesn’t seem to have any friends. Nick mourns by getting close to Chaz’s old friends and becomes involved in the community center that helped Chaz with his dream of being a dancer.
Writers Fabienne Wen and Ellie Wen attempt to cover mental illness (Asperger) which amplifies that hateful high school outsider status writers love, mourning, tolerance, poverty, faith and tolerance and even alcoholism. Director Quentin Lee becomes more like a traffic signal between all these different directions that the story hops about trying to address. You do wonder if he meant to have a washed out, over-exposed look to the photography. The flatness that results in many ways reflects the depth of characterizations.
“White Frog” aches with earnestness but the matters addressed here are too many to allow a coherent message and too messy to emote beyond a perfunctory level.
“White Frog” is available on iTunes, Amazon.com, YouTube, XBox, CinemaNow and Vudu.