Not just another romantic comedy, “Crazy Rich Asians” revives the spirit of Nora Ephron (“When Harry Met Sally”) or Nancy Meyers (“The Holiday). This Cinderella story is quite simply one of the most charming “rom-coms” ever. It features a charismatic couple, wacky support cast and attractive locales. It’s a feel-good movie from start to finish.
Based on the first novel of a trilogy by Kevin Kwan, director Jon M. Chu (“Now You See Me”) delivers the first Western-produced film with an exclusively Asian cast in more than 25 years. Filmed primarily in Singapore, the theme boasts the only thing crazier than love is family. Therefore, this plot might have worked with almost any ethnic group, but with so little representation in Hollywood, the selection is refreshing and enlightening.
The story follows Rachel Chu (Constance Wu, “Fresh Off the Boat”), a Chinese-American economics professor, who travels to her boyfriend Nick’s (Henry Golding) hometown of Singapore for his best friend’s wedding. While there, he plans to introduce her to his family, who she knows very little about. Even with this extremely large cast, Wu and Golding are strong enough individually and as a couple to carry the movie.
It seems the handsome Nick has neglected to tell Rachel one little factoid about himself. Apparently, he is from a wealthy and powerful family and one of the most eligible bachelors in all of Asia. Therefore, every bachelorette in his rarefied social class will be jealous of Rachel and determined to bring her down.
Nick’s controlling mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh, “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”) objects to this commoner as his companion. Yeoh is majestic as the quietly powerful “dragon lady” that demands respect by her sheer presence. Today, many struggle with their heritage while parents struggle with love, sacrifice and guilt. Eleanor notes, “The longer children are away from home, the less they remember who they really are.”
This picture features a lot of beautiful people in extravagant gowns, driving exotic cars and partying at their outrageously gorgeous homes. The cinematography features the magnificent Singapore skyline, exquisite nightclubs and abundant street fairs to every foodie’s delight. The footage would make the Singapore Visitor’s Bureau proud.
More important, this fish-out-of-water fairy tale is emotionally layered, heartfelt and wholesome escapist fun. The dialog is crisp and intelligent, the score is upbeat and there is a stylish use of graphics throughout. Sure, the story is predictable, but the intriguing approach on how it gets there is gratifying. It could revive the romantic comedy genre.
Comedians Ken Jeong (“The Hangover”), Ronnie Cheng (“Daily Show”), Nico Santos (“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”) and Jimmy O. Yang offer comic relief with genuine laugh out loud humor. But, the breakout star is rap singer Awkwafina (“Ocean’s Eight”) as Rachel’s former roommate. She nails every hilariously scripted and clearly ad-libbed one-liner.
The only downside to this lavish production is the number of characters jammed into the storyline. It takes a little work to follow which was the sibling or cousin of whom, best friend of whom, husband or wife of whom, etc., but overall, they all do seem to fit in quite nicely. We also loved hearing songs such as “Material Girl” and “Money” in Mandarin.
“Crazy Rich Asians” is two hours and rated PG-13 for suggestive content and language. Whether it’s “Crazy-Rich Asians” or “Crazy, Rich Asians,” many characters are based on the real-life rich and famous of Singapore’s society. It was reported the creators turned down “crazy-rich” money from Netflix, but thankfully chose to release it at the cineplex.
No Cinderella story is complete without our heroine’s bubble bursting midnight at the ball, with her prince in pursuit. The exception is the very strong and grounded female lead to give today’s story the needed emotional and intellectual heft. Stay tuned for the sequel, but please note you won’t need to take off your shoes to enter the theater.
Ron’s Rating: A Leigh’s Rating: B+