Last Sunday, the Academy Awards honored the late, the great John Hughes. If you’re of a certain age, I’m sure you agree that no other filmmaker so acutely charted our adolescent lives than Hughes. With one glaring exception — Long Duk Dong.
[insert menacing music here]
Yes, who can forget (and not cringe) every time someone mentions Asian American actor Gedde Watanabe’s infamous role as the happily clueless and fobby foreign exchange student in Hughes’ Sixteen Candles. I have such a love-hate relationship with this movie. Love love love Molly Ringwald’s unrequited crush-love on the quintessential high school heart-throb Jake Ryan. Hate hate hate the bad stereotypes that come packaged with “The Donger.” (Sorry Gedde!).
Jimmy makes for a nice bookend to Hughes’ Long Duk Dong — fobby, but in the best possible way. Jimmy, played with particular exuberance and heart by Japanese actor Hiroshi Watanabe (Letters from Iwo Ima), is 40 and finds himself having to share a bunk bed with his 10-year-old nephew Bob at his cousin Aiko’s house. Fresh off of a divorce, Jimmy earnestly sets out to find a new wife when he runs into his brother-in-law’s gorgeous niece Ramona (Lynn Chen of Saving Face). Sadly, Ramona has eyes for Jimmy’s way cooler coworker Tim (James Kyson Lee of “Heroes”). Jimmy wages a love war on Tim (who doesn’t seem to realize that) in an effort to win Ramona’s heart.
The film has won over critics both stateside and abroad in Japan. The SF Guardian says Watanabe does a “perfect job,” while Jeff Yang in a review for the San Francisco Chronicle calls the move “a cinematic milestone.”
The film is in a very limited theatrical release and only few DVD copies are available on the website. Visit White on Rice online for details. In the meantime, here’s taste: