'General Tso' serves up more than a dish

January 8, 2015 4:44 PM

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The top-billed star of "The Search for General Tso" gets its close-up in the opening scene: the staging of that namesake chicken dish for a menu photo shoot. But like so many "in search of" documentary journeys before it, Ian Cheney's roundabout talking-heads film has bigger quarry in mind; it looks at Chinese-American assimilation, the useful adaptability of cuisine and the complicated cultivation of heritage.

Cheney does get around to explaining the origins of General Tso's chicken, but what's more rewarding than the spoon-fed history - which covers the gold rush, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and Nixon in China - is the film's glimpses of history as lived. Shot around the United States, with surpris...

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