What do you get when you cross a sincere drama about the American immigrant experience with whimsical nostalgia á la The Sandlot? Serious tonal confusion. From a brief present-day set-up, the story flashes back to 1979, where 10-year-old Smith Bhatnagar (Roni Akurati)—a first-generation Indian-American—tries to adapt to life in suburban Oklahoma, including his crush on a neighbor girl named Amy (Brighton Sharbino). As co-written by Anjul Nigam (who also plays Smith’s traditional father), the movie leans on an episodic structure narrated by the adult Smith, with broad fantasy sequences (like Smith in a Saturday Night Fever set-up) and predictable needle-drops. But the real frustration comes from how the script treats what should have been the central conflict—between tradition and assimilation—as an afterthought, or even as a punch line, like when Smith’s mother makes him a Ganesh costume for Halloween. Likeable performances—including Jason Lee as Amy’s dad and Smith’s mentor in being an all-American boy—carry it a long way, until it becomes impossible to reconcile its attempts at an emotional core with its glossy, jokey view of Smith’s childhood.
Director: Frank Lotito
Producer: Steve Straka and Frank Lotito
Cast: Jason Lee, Anjul Nigam, Brighton Sharbino, Hilarie Burton and Roni Akurati