Crazy Rich Asians - This Movie Pleasantly Rocks
Dir: Jon M Chu
Starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Awkwafina, Lisa Lu, Ken Jeong
Can we talk about this phrase “game changer”? It’s getting really annoying now. You may have noticed it being used a fair deal this in connection with movies like Black Panther and, now, Crazy Rich Asians. Let’s be clear – these movies are not game changers. They are genre movies full of incredibly familiar tropes – that just happen to have an ethnically based cast. Yes, Black Panther was a huge hit that admittedly was probably boosted by a black audience going to it more than say they would go see Iron Man 3. But first and foremost it was a Marvel superhero movie – and they’ve been doing kinda well in general for a good decade or so now. Does it mean that its stellar box office means we’ll be seeing lots more black superhero movies? Probably, but, unless Marvel are involved the odds are these things will crash and burn - in the same misguided way that Hollywood thought CHiPs would be a hit because some people had heard of it from TV.
Which brings us to Crazy Rich Asians – the first all Asian cast in a Hollywood movie since The Joy Luck Club, the biggest romcom hit in years and a total smash at the US box office. So will we be seeing more Asian led romcoms in the near future? Almost inevitably, but more than likely the one that’ll work will be a Mama Mia-like Crazy Rich sequel in a couple of years.
So are these things “game changers”? No, one’s a very good Marvel movie (as most Marvel movies are) and the other one is a romcom that all but steals its ending from The Wedding Singer.
But the question remains – is it any good outside of its supposed epoch-redefining casting coup? Yeah, it’s alright actually. The cast is extremely likeable, the glamour is suitably glamorous, Chu’s direction is pacey and keeps it all frothy, and there are enough quickly defined characters for an audience to get behind. And it manage to begin things without the need for the meet cute – which may well be the film’s most radical move, in terms of form at least. Wu and Golding are already an item when the film begins – the only drawback being he hasn’t told her he’s stinking rich back home in Singapore. When he takes her there to meet the folks finally, needless to say family tensions emerge and then we’re back in the more familiar territory of boy loses girl, boys tries to win girl back by being Adam Sandler. With a culturally specific Mah-Jong denouncement thrown in for good measure. (We didn’t have a clue who won by the way – but we think it might have been Wu.)
It’s very romantic, and it’s quite funny – but it does make you question the central relationship when you start putting two and two together and realise that after a year of going out, she knows practically nothing about him (could’ve been a serial killer for all she knows), and once they get to Singapore, they barely seem to spend any time together, with Wu opting to hang with the comic relief that is Awkwafina.
Despite such questions being raised, Crazy Rich Asians is bright, sassy, energetic and overall very pleasant. The “rom” is well catered for even if the film could use a bit more “com.” But hardly a game-changer.
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