Parents' Guide to

The Paper Tigers

By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Ragtag but lovable martial arts comedy; language, fighting.

Movie PG-13 2021 110 minutes
The Paper Tigers Poster Image

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Ragtag to the point of almost feeling homemade, this cheerful, lovable action comedy edges close to creaky martial arts and "old guy" movie clichés but evades them with sheer spirit and gumption. The feature writing and directing debut of Tran Quoc Bao, The Paper Tigers starts out a little shabbily, with a clunky-looking scene of Sifu's murder that doesn't inspire much confidence. A VHS-style flashback showing the trio's training is fun, and then things pick up as the perfectly cast Uy (True Detective), Yuan (Mulan), and Jenkins (The Bold and the Beautiful) advance with their strong, diverse chemistry.

The movie tries to pack in several messages -- e.g., the importance of spending time with family rather than work, not solving problems with violence, etc. -- but it also has some subtler, darker themes about cultural appropriation. Specifically, Carter is a prime example of a White man who liberally and shamelessly borrows from Chinese culture for his own benefit. Otherwise, while the movie's jokes are a little old-fashioned -- such as Hing losing his toupee during a fight -- they're mostly innocuous. The fight scenes, however, are constantly surprising. There's never any telling just how any one fight will turn out. In the end, The Paper Tigers is more of a love tap than a knockout punch, but it works.

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