The Motel

Palm Pictures

Michael Kang’s debut feature The Motel was developed by the Sundance Institute, played the festival in 2005 and then slipped through the cracks of domestic distribution. The film is newly available to DVD, and it would be inspiring to report that this story of an overweight adolescent Chinese boy coming of age in a seedy, pay-by-the-hour motel is an unheralded gem. Unfortunately, The Motel plays more like a lost Project Greenlight movie—i.e., tragically clichéd, ludicrously inert, thin to the point of transparency and just earnest enough to make you feel like a heartless jerk for hating it. At least you can’t blame the cast: Jeffrey Chyau plays the boy, Jade Wu is his overbearing mother and Sung Kang steals the show as an irresponsible lunk who clumsily tries to be a mentor.