Movie Night Meal: Big Trouble in Little China

We decided to go the ethnic route for this week’s movie night. No, we didn’t watch a foreign film (subtitles and drunks don’t really mesh). Instead, for Big Trouble in Little China (1986, directed by John Carpenter), we paired it with Chinese takeout. This movie was obviously supposed to be an Indiana Jones-type franchise character for Kurt Russell. He plays Jack Burton (the name of every 1980’s action hero), a truck driver who goes to the airport to pick up his buddy’s green-eyed fiancee from China. When the fiancee is kidnapped (and Kurt’s truck is stolen) by magical Chinese warriors, Kurt, Kim Cattrall, and a whole slew of friends go underground in Chinatown to help save the girl. While watching the movie, we partook in some cultural delicacies like:

Chow Mein
Lo Mein
Broccoli Beef
Honey Glazed Pork
Orange Chicken
Vegetable Fried Rice
Vegetable Wontons
Fortune Cookies

Topics of discussion:

-What is with Kurt Russell’s John Wayne impression? Was he doing it as a joke? I mean, he’s a good actor. Why did he decide not to be in this movie?

-In case you forget at any point that Kurt Russell plays a trucker… he wears an actual trucker hat. And not in an ironic, Ashton Kutcher-sorta way.

-Kim Catrall plays an even more annoying version of Lois Lane. Her first line in the movie is literally: “You know me. I stick my nose where it doesn’t belong.”

-There’s nothing worse than a movie that sets itself up for a sequel even though it’s far too bad to deserve one. We weren’t sure what the sequel was going to be. Big Trouble in Little Italy? “Ay! Why-a you-a gotta kid-a napp-a de ladies?”

-This movie has a severe case of too-many-characters-syndrome. For some reason there are three- count ’em, three!-damsel in distress characters: the green-eyed Asian chick, Kim Cattrall, and Kim Cattrall’s uglier friend. Kurt really only needs one sidekick, but he has a whole gang getting down on the “big trouble”, and the villain has so many henchmen it’s impossible to tell them apart (and not just because they’re Asian).

-I’m curious if this movie stirred up trouble with any Asian anti-defamation league. Because it’s certainly no Joy Luck Club when it comes to honest portrayals of Chinese people. I have to say, a little part of me dies every time I see an Asian person ordering a Chinese Chicken Salad (putting mandarin oranges on something doesn’t automatically make it Chinese. I’m more Chinese than a Chinese Chicken Salad and I’m Irish). Seeing James Hong, an actual Chinese-American actor, do an overly stereotypical Chinese accent as the villain was even more embarrassing than the salad dilemma.

-Let’s get to the real highlight of my movie night. For the first time in my life, I fulfilled a movie-inspired dream. You’ve seen it before, a million times, on TV and in movies, in Friends, Seinfeld, Woody Allen movies, and romantic comedies. A character (or characters), staying in for the night, eat Chinese food from white cardboard containers with chopsticks. They usually sit on the floor and share noodles (double-dipping chopsticks and everything). But nobody does this in real life. Every time I order Chinese food it comes in styrofoam or plastic. They always give me a fork, and I am rarely sitting on the floor or in bed while I’m eating it. I am surely not the only one who notices that this only happens in movies (there’s even an entire online forum about it: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/328531).

So once I saw that the Lo Mein came in a white cardboard box, I snatched that bitch up, plopped on the ground and went to town with some chopsticks.

I have officially gone Hollywood, and it tastes like delicious, delicious MSG.

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