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Crazy Rich Asians

I heard someone on TV say that this is the first movie that’s had an all Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club in the early 90s. Well, I don’t give movies extra credit for stuff like that. I don’t care if Girl’s Trip is all African-American women, or Trainwreck starred a heavy woman, or My Big Fat Greek Wedding being the first Greek romantic comedy. I’m just looking to be entertained for a few hours, not worrying about equality on the big screen. And, from the amount of people at the screenings having a blast with this (and the three Asian women I brought with me that loved it), this is going to be a big hit. It’s a rom-com that everyone will be able to relate to (no matter what race). Now, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a little more sitcom than rom-com for my taste.

The screenplay is written by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim, based on the popular Kevin Kwan novel. It deals a lot more with the issues of class and culture, then the trailers lead you to believe. This isn’t just some wacky comedy. In fact, one of my complaints is that it wasn’t funnier.

I remember being at the Critics’ Choice awards three years ago and my wife said, “The most beautiful woman is walking behind you right now.”

I didn’t know who Constance Wu was, but my wife was right — she was a beauty. She was there for a nomination for the show Fresh Off the Boat.

She’s just as beautiful on the big screen in her first starring role, and she plays a character that isn’t fresh off the boat. She was raised in a working-class environment in the U.S., and is a popular economics professor. Her mom raised her on her own. Her boyfriend Nick Young is played by Henry Golding, who doesn’t look all that Asian to me. He reminded me of a taller, younger Johnny Depp. That’s led to some controversy from Asian groups. Another story for another time.  

Nick’s family is the wealthiest in Singapore, which made me wonder how she’s never Googled him. After all, everyone in the restaurant they’re at knows who he is. That’s how word got back to the dragon lady mom from hell back in the homeland. She’s not too thrilled by this relationship.

The movie could’ve used a tad more romance between these two, although that was probably hard to force in when the story is more concerned with the family dynamics and conflicts, or the wacky characters. Those wacky characters are three that I love. Ken Jeong, a comedic genius. Jimmy O. Yang, who you might not know, but should. He’s a great stand-up comedian (check out his book How to American); and rapper/comedian Awkwafina, who I hated in Ocean’s 8 but who cracked me up in this. Nico Santos plays a humorous gay character (he calls himself the “rainbow sheep of the family”). He has some funny lines. It’s a cliche character (many in this are), but you have fun with them.

The couple has come to Singapore to attend the wedding of Nick’s best friend Colin (Chris Pang) and Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno). It’s a $25 million affair, and the talk of the town.

Michelle Yeoh is excellent as Nick’s mom Eleanor. This is the type of character that often suffers from overacting on screen. Yeoh delivers her lines perfectly, with a snotty, smug look on her face. It’s a great performance that isn’t just one-dimensional.

Eleanor disapproves of Rachel, because she’s from a poor family. She also thinks that Rachel will keep Nick in New York, when she’s planning on having him take his place as the heir to their family business. That would be hard enough for Rachel to deal with, but she also has every other woman on the island hating her because she’s got Nick.

The side stories are done poorly. There’s a cousin named Astrid (Gemma Chan) who is a philanthropist that has a husband (Pierre Png) she feels shouldn’t know just how rich she is, and what she buys with her money. None of that, or what happens in their story, makes sense. It’s also not that interesting.

Another story that didn’t work for me involved a cousin that’s a movie producer, sleeping with his ditzy, leading lady.

There are some really powerful scenes in this. Listening to Eleanor on the staircase, talking about her difficulty dealing with her mother-in-law, and what she says to Rachel that is heartbreaking.

Watching as Rachel wins over the grandmother is sweet.

Another scene that worked was a woman being silent after finding out about a husband’s affair.

You also adore Rachel when she’s crying to Nick over what she had to deal with regarding his old flame. She is cute and sad, all at once.

The movie is a bit predictable, and I had hoped it would be better. But, it’s the date movie of the year, and my wife liked it a lot more than I did. I’m sure most women will like it more than the men they bring to it, but nobody will be bored.

I give it extra credit for great versions of Material Girl and Berry Gordy’s Money (That’s What I Want) done in Chinese. A beautiful version of Can’t Help Falling in Love at the wedding is nice, too.

2 ½ stars out of 5.