SK Global Entertainment/Color Force/Ivanhoe Pictures/Electric Somewhere/Warner Bros.
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Produced by Nina Jacobson/Brad Simpson/Penotti
Screenplay by Peter Chiarelli/Adele Lim
Based on “Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan
Music by Brian Tyler
I knew that director Jon M. Chu knew what he was doing in the first five minutes of CRAZY RICH ASIANS when he gave Michelle Yeoh an ass-kicking scene. Not the one that we’re used to her seeing. Usually in a movie she’s in, Michelle Yeoh is busting heads with magnificent martial arts skill. Not here. In this scene she kicks ass in another way. And in the context of the movie, it’s just as devastating an ass-whoopin’ as she has ever laid on an opponent in one of her many excellent martial arts movies.
But it also kinda spoiled me because as the movie progressed I wanted to know more about her character. As well as the supporting cast as well. Because CRAZY RICH ASIANS successfully ticks off every box in the Romantic Comedy Checklist. Including the box that says that the supporting characters are quirkier and more interesting than the leads. Which is what usually happens to me when I watch a Romantic Comedy. I end up liking the supporting characters more than the leads and want to know their stories. Don’t get me wrong. Our leads here, Constance Wu and Henry Golding are both appropriately beautiful and fulfill the roles that the story demands. But there’s not a lick of suspense or worry that they won’t get together and that True Love Conquers All. They’re just not the most interesting characters in the movie, that’s all. I enjoyed the marvelous cast of supporting characters, especially Awkwafina, who walks away as the movie’s MVP in a role that she plays with an energy and intelligence that reminded me a lot of Kate McKinnon.
Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) agrees to make the trip from New York to Singapore with her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to meet his family while he’s being the best man at his best friend’s wedding. Imagine Rachel’s shocked surprise when upon arriving in Singapore she discovers that Nick’s family is insanely wealthy. They’re described as being Singapore’s landlords and regarded as royalty. Now, considering that Rachel and Nick have been dating for a year I find it hard to believe that not once in all that time did Rachel not Google his name and thus find out who he is. But this is a Romantic Comedy and like most RomComs, if you insist on imposing logic onto the plot, you wouldn’t have a plot so let’s movie on.
Rachel’s college roomie Goh Peik Lin (Awkwafina) lives in Singapore with her eccentric family (who apparently have more than a few bucks themselves) and she’s the one who fills in Rachel on the history of Nick’s family. Rachel is apprehensive about fitting in with the family. An apprehension that is confirmed upon meeting Nick’s mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh). And it’s here that the movie does take an interesting angle as it’s revealed that Eleanor looks down upon American born Asians to the point where she considers them another race entirely. Now, this angle isn’t developed very deeply as this is supposed to be a lightweight comedy but it is one of the many touches that reminds us that we aren’t watching your typical New York, Los Angeles or London based RomCom with your typical white characters going through the motions. The culture of Singapore is little more than a backdrop for the story but it’s a gorgeous backdrop and I always enjoy a movie set in another country that makes me want to jump on a plane and fly straight to that country the minute I leave the theater.
Rachel and Nick go through the usual permutations demanded from this sort of movie. meanwhile we get to know the members of Nick’s family and their trials and tribulations. Nick’s cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan) is having martial problems as her husband is intimidated by Astrid’s wealth and her family’s power and position. Cousin Oliver (Nico Santos) a self-described “poor relation” nevertheless always seems to be right there when Eleanor needs something done she doesn’t want to dirty her hand with. Alistair Cheng (Remy Hii) is another cousin hooked up with a gold-digging soap opera star who can’t act to save her life but that doesn’t stop Alistair from using his money to get her roles in movies.
There’s a mishmosh of subplots involving all of these characters and plenty more besides. The movie has a fairly large cast but don’t worry, you won’t get lost following them. The subplots are dealt with neatly and succinctly by the time the end credits roll around and yes, True Love Does Indeed Conquer All.
CRAZY RICH ASIANS is getting a lot of attention for it’s all Asian cast and it deserves the attention. The cast is excellent and there are some really amazing scenes in here such as a wedding that you absolutely have to see to believe. The movie’s story doesn’t demand anything from you except that you sit back, munch on your popcorn and let yourself be entertained. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You’ll enjoy it.