A sweet-natured plea for tolerance that treats a sorry era in American history with tame nostalgia. During WWII, young Duke Cooper (Trevor Morgan) and his pals play at being merines and don't blink an eye at the incongruity of their Asian-American buddy Willy Tanaka (Yuki Tokuhiro) joining their games. While they don't see Willy as the enemy, other townspeople including, ironically, German-American realtor Schimmel (Paul Dooley) are not so race-blind. Schimmel hears that Willy's grandpa, Abe Tanaka (Pat Morita), is being relocated to an internment camp and tries to buy his property for a song. Meanwhile, an injured Japanese submarine sailor, Matsui (Yuki Okumoto), washes up on shore and holes up in an abandoned factory where the kids hang out. When they discovers the foreign intruder, they decide to keep him as prisoner until the FBI arrives because they don't want the local cops to take the credit for their heroism. As anti-Japanese sentiment continues to poison the hamlet, Duke and Matsui become friends, and when Duke falls into a deep pool of water, Matsui risks his life to rescue him. The death of Duke's older brother at the front nearly makes Duke turn on Matsui, but he later begins to treat the soldier as a surrogate older brother. As Abe and his family prepare to leave the neighborhood, one of Duke's pals shifts his loyalties and snitches to the authorities about Matsui. How can Duke devise an escape for Matsui that won't propel his Japanese buddy into federal custody? Like COME TO THE PARADISE, this saga of Japanese-American mistreatment has the air of a genteel civics lesson. Still, it's a creditable attempt to examine wartime horrors through a juvenile coming-of-age story.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: NR
- Review: A sweet-natured plea for tolerance that treats a sorry era in American history with tame nostalgia. During WWII, young Duke Cooper (Trevor Morgan) and his pals play at being merines and don't blink an eye at the incongruity of their Asian-American buddy Wi… (more)