Reportedly the first American feature shot in Communist China, A GREAT WALL deemphasizes story development in favor of an amiable exploration of the cultural contrasts between Americans and Chinese. Although graced with rich, likable characters and a perceptive wit, the film remains a
disappointing effort, opting for superficial comparisons rather than in-depth political or cultural inquiry.
Wang is a computer engineer who quits his job when he's passed over for a promotion he expected. He then decides that it's time for his family to travel to China to learn about their cultural origins. His wife (Iwai) is a first-generation American with no knowledge of the Chinese language; their
son (Yee) is a typical American teenager. They go to visit Wang's sister who lives in Peking with her retired-bureaucrat husband and her teenage daughter. The Chinese family members graciously accept their American relatives into their home and allow for the expected cultural confrontations.
Despite a number of flaws--specifically, forced plot situations--A GREAT WALL is almost impossible to dislike because the characters are portrayed as regular people in the process of questioning their cultural identities.
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