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Parents' Guide to

The Debut

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Predictable immigrant-experience tale has cursing, drinking.

Movie R 2001 88 minutes
The Debut Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Is It Any Good?

Our review:
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This indie coming-of-age and immigrant-experience story seems promising, but unfortunately it isn't as good as it should be. In Ben, The Debut has a sympathetic central character played by the appealing Dante Basco, and his presence alone makes up for an otherwise clichéd tale of immigrants and first-generation Americans making their way in a new world. The theme of working out how to fit into one's adopted country while maintaining valued cultural traditions from one's home country isn't a new one, and this movie adds nothing to the subject apart from its focus on the Filipino American experience.

For showcasing some Filipino traditions and practices alone, The Debut makes a valuable contribution. But for exactly the same reason, this sometimes feels like a documentary on a Filipino dance troupe. A group of family and friends throw together a performance that deserves its own documentary and feels largely out of place in this narrative. The messages feel labored and obvious, with exaggerated comparisons between White Americans and Filipino Americans. The White teens' party showcases crude, insensitive, and racist underage kids who drink too much and vomit. The Filipino party is fun and upbeat, shared by multiple generations, and filled with lively and engaging music and dancing, and delicious-looking food. It's impossible to miss the filmmaker's understandable belief that one is objectively better than the other.

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