Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Say hello to the Xiao family. While I’m not the least bit fluent in Chinese, but if someone were to inform me that somehow ‘Xiao’ translated into ‘Mighty Unpleasant People’ then I would understand this translation because the Xiao family are truly some of the most unpleasant folks I’ve ever had the opportunity to spend some quality movie time with. The matriarch of the Xiao family has sadly passed away, though we must admit that me and you will probably mourn Mrs. Xiao more than her adult chidlren will, but regardless, director Anna Chi’s film ‘Dim Sum Funeral’ picks up where Mrs. Xiao checks out.

Our players consists of oldest daughter Elizabeth (Julia Nickson) who is still mourning the death of her young son and the dissolution of her marriage because of this death. Then there’s eldest son Alexander (Russell Wong) a plastic surgeon by trade who spends his spare time cheating on his wife Cindy (Kelly Hu). One would think a man wouldn’t feel the need to cheat on a woman who looked like that, but if we’ve learned one thing in this life, that would be that no woman is too pretty to be cheated on. Second daughter Victoria (Francois Yip) made the critical mistake of falling in love with a Black Man some years ago, bearing a young son in the process, and from what I gather from watching this movie she probably would’ve been better off murdering somebody than getting knocked up by a Black Guy. Apparently. Finally we have baby girl Meimei (Steph Song), probably the least pleasant of the unpleasants who is an action movie star by trade and is madly in love with her action choreographer Dede (Bai Ling). The ring leader of this circus is long time family caretaker Viola (Talia Shire) who will do her best to see that Mrs. Xiao’s wishes get taken care of and her children don’t kill each other in the process.

Mrs. Xiao has just one request and that being that her children, who despise her, conduct a traditional Chinese funeral. The problem with this is that it takes seven days to complete a traditional Chinese funeral and asking these adults to spend that amount of time with each other is a challenge all unto itself.

However in the process of these unpleasant people spending quality time with each other, in between launching vicious insults towards each other, they begin to learn about their mother and how proud she was of them despite the fact she never shared this information with them. They learn about the odd Chinese concert pianist (Chang Tseng) who is attending the funeral for some unknown reason. Meimei and Dede tell of their desire to have a baby, Alexander talks of his infidelities and how he has unfortunately turned out like their dead old man. They didn’t like him much either by the way. Elizabeth expresses how much she misses her child and how much she misses her estranged husband who will show up for the ceremonies… and then… well… it gets a little complicated. Note that in the Plot Keywords on the IMDB it list one of the plot points, THE plot point in fact, which is a spoiler for your ass. You might want to see if they can take that down.

One good thing about ‘Dim Sum Funeral’ is that it gives some much needed screen time to the severely underrepresented demographic of the Chinese American Family. Or any Asian American family for that matter. I think I’ve seen more movies about Martian families that I’ve seen movies or television shows centered around Asian American families. That being said spending time with this particular Asian American family was absolutely no fun. No fun at all. I dig the fact that this is an extremely dysfunctional family and that we needed to completely experience their issues so that when they all came together at the end we could feel the joy of the family bonding together, but I don’t think that ever happened in this movie. Not even close. Ninety five or so minutes just wasn’t enough time for us to go from despising these extremely unpleasant people to actually begin to start feeling some kind sympathy for them. They needed like 22 episodes worth of an NBC TV series to fix all of their issues in a reasonable time frame.

In one scene the character of Victoria expresses disgust over Meimei and Dede searching for a sperm donor, and mind you having a monk whack off in a Styrofoam cup (sanitation issues?), filling up a turkey baster with this unsanitary semen and jamming this turkey baster up someone’s vagina is pretty damn disgusting if you ask me. They have procedures for this kind of thing you know. Meimei responds by calling Victoria a slut, which nobody, including Victoria seemed to protest against. Why exactly is Victoria a slut? Is she a slut because she sleeps around or is she slut because she fell for a Black Guy? I need to know these answers.

Eventually, due to the completely ridiculous end play, we learn some things about what’s going on but we don’t learn nearly enough. When mom was just dead, the simple explanation that mom was an asshole was tolerable. Now, the way things ended up turning out, we should know with some clarity why mom was such an asshole. Why does mom hate Black people so much? Why did she treat her children with such cruelty. I’m sorry but ‘she’s Chinese’ just doesn’t cut it.

‘Dim Sum Funeral’ was admirable on many fronts in that it was well acted and had some interesting elements but is was also frustrating in that it was so erratic and almost open-ended in its presentation. I really, really wanted to like this movie but ultimately I was disappointed in what I got out of ‘Dim Sum Funeral’.

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