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"CRAZY RICH ASIANS"
(2018) (Constance Wu, Henry Golding) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Romantic Comedy: A young Asian-American woman travels to Singapore for a wedding where she meets and must contend with her boyfriend's ultra-wealthy family.
PLOT:
Rachel Chu (CONSTANCE WU) is an Asian-American economics professor who teaches at NYU and has been dating Nick Young (HENRY GOLDING) for about a year. Not until they're in the air and headed to Singapore -- to attend the wedding of Nick's best friend Colin Khoo (CHRIS PANG) to Araminta (SONOYA MIZUNO) -- and then staying with her college roommate, Peik Lin Goh (AWKWAFINA) and her parents, Wye Mun (KEN JEONG) and Neena (KOH CHIENG MUN) -- does Rachel learn that Nick comes from an ultra-wealthy family that made their fortune from real estate and more.

Having grown up with single, working-class mom Kerry (TAN KHENG HUA), this is a pleasant surprise for Rachel, although Nick warns her about the interesting array of characters in his family that she's about to meet.

There's family matriarch Ah Ma (LISA LU) who's welcoming to Rachel and Nick's mom, Eleanor (MICHELLE YEOH), who's not, despite having likewise once been an outsider to the family before marrying into it. Nick's cousin, Astrid Young Teo (GEMMA CHAN), is thoroughly pleasant, even after learning some disturbing news about her husband, Michael (PIERRE PNG), while another cousin, film producer Alistair Cheng (REMY HII), is dating actress Kitty Pong (FIONA XIE) who could prove to be an embarrassment to the well-known family.

Investment banker cousin Eddie (RONNY CHIENG) is a jerk to most everyone, unlike fashion designer Oliver T'Sien (NICO SANTOS) who everyone likes, especially Eleanor who utilizes him as her fixer. And then there's wild party boy Bernard Tai (JIMMY O. YANG) who isn't a family member by blood, but has been around them for years and is the one throwing the extravagant bachelor party for Colin and the rest of the guys.

As Rachel meets all of them and more, she must contend with varying reactions to her not being rich and being Asian-American rather than full Asian, all of which begins to put a strain on her relationship with Nick.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
Back when the movie adaptation of Amy Tan's 1989 novel "The Joy Luck Club" was released in 1993, China's GDP was in the mid $400 billion dollar range. Now it's up into the fourteen figures and is second in the world only behind the U.S. while the country's spending power for foreign products is likewise near or at the top of the charts.

While movie theaters have been around for a long time there and are just a small percentage of that, an explosion of them in the past decade or so has turned China into the number one movie market in the world (surpassing the U.S. just this year).

Yet, for reasons that boggle the mind since the industry is all about making money, the major Hollywood studios have shunned or at least not actively sought out new projects featuring predominant Asians casts and with Asian talent behind the camera as well.

Well, after 25 years, that's about to change with the release of "Crazy Rich Asians," the highly satisfying adaptation of Kevin Kwan's best-selling 2013 novel. Only time will tell how much money the film makes in the U.S. as well as in China and other Asian markets, but if there's any justice in the world of movies, this one will be a huge hit here and abroad and usher in a lot more films like it.

And that's not just because of the underserved ethnicity factor, although that's obviously important. It's also due to the fact that this enjoyable offering -- helmed by Jon M. Chu who works from Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim's screenplay adaptation of Kwan's work -- is one of the best big studio-backed romantic comedies to come down the pike in years.

The story revolves around Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Nick Young (Henry Golding) who've been dating for around a year in New York. She's an econ professor at NYU who was raised by a single mom (Tan Kheng Hua), while he's a businessman initially from Singapore whose mother (Michelle Yeoh) had just a bit more money to raise him.

Rachel discovers this when they head off to fly there for his best friend Colin's (Chris Pang) wedding and they end up in first class, much to her shock but also delight. She learns more when she stays with her former college roommate (a scene-stealing Awkwafina) and her nouveau riche parents (with Ken Jeong as her dad) and discovers just how wealthy and famous the Young family is.

That doesn't matter to her as she loves Nick for who he's been to her this past year, but it definitely matters to some of Nick's family and close associates. That's especially true for Eleanor whose chilly disposition to this outsider manages to get even colder as things progress over the film's two-hour runtime.

All of that's in place to introduce the genre's seemingly obligatory third-act falling out between the couple, which is one minor direction I wished the story had handled in a different and more creative/imaginative way (which also holds true for the highly unbelievable early bit about Nick somehow managing to keep his family wealth secret from her for so long, what with the paparazzi world in which all of us now live).

Those are just minor nitpicks, however, as the film remains light on its feet and races along like any number of exotic sports cars people with this sort of wealth obviously own. And that's part of the fun of watching Rachel (as our story surrogate) be introduced to the lifestyles of the rich and famous and seeing how the various extended family members exist in that, with some flaunting it and others realizing all the wealth in the world can't save, for instance, a marriage (with the involved couple played by Gemma Chan and Pierre Png) and can actually be the cause of its demise.

With an uber-attractive cast, good performances all around, lavish production values and the various to-be-expected trappings of the genre (that fans of these sorts of films love or at least willingly accept), "Crazy Rich Asians" is the grandly entertaining rom-com we've been waiting a while for, and hopefully one that will result in many more roles in front of and behind the camera for folks of Asian descent. It rates as a 7 out of 10.




Reviewed August 9, 2018 / Posted August 15, 2018


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