Sunday, 2 September 2018

Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians
Cert: 12A / 121 mins / Dir. John M. Chu / Trailer

There are some movies where if the projector broke down 15 minutes before the end, you wouldn't be too bothered. It's not that you could figure out where everything was headed, more that the inevitable conclusion would mean as little as everything you'd already seen on the way there. You'd just pick up what's left of your popcorn and head out, safe in the knowledge that at least the extra quarter of an hour could be spent further dissecting the movie over a pint on the way home.

Anyway, I saw all of Crazy Rich Asians on Saturday night. And it didn't matter.

We follow Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a young lecturing professor in New York as she discovers that her boyfriend of the last year, Nick Young (Henry Golding), is from an extremely wealthy family in the far East. As their relationship has grown, Nick wants to take Rachel home for his best friend's wedding, and to meet the family. But Nick's mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), while a strong-minded businesswoman, harbours a grudge of Americans and their gaucheness. To make matters worse, the younger element of Nick's extended family and friends in Singapore display even more louche decadence than their counterparts in the US.

Can Rachel win over Nick's traditionalist family and hedonistic contemporaries? Can Nick find the balance between independence and traditionalism? Do I even need to be asking these questions?

No, I don't. Imagine securing the production and mainstream distribution budgets for an Asian-led comedy which (to its credit) doesn't treat itself as a self-aware novelty, then turning out something as insipid as this. And sure, the Guardian-reader in me wants to give Crazy Rich Asians a pass because it's bearing the standard for a demographic shift the industry badly needs, but if this movie was a vehicle for Katherine Heigl, Anna Kendrick or Channing Tatum I'd be all over it like Jason Voorhees at a summer-camp all nighter. So no quarter I'm afraid…

A two-hour advertisement for the Singapore Tourist Board, Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim's screenplay is the dictionary definition of On The Nose, apparently comprising 30% plot-driving details and 70% autopilot platitudes. It's based on Kevin Kwan's 2013 novel, like that's some sort of get-out-of-jail-free card. Either way, the end result is thoroughly superficial and with no ambition other than the ancillary sales of a jukebox soundtrack.

To make matters worse, the movie feels like it's being directed by someone who's only ever watched romantic comedies from the 1990s. We're treated to a burgeoning romance between two impossibly attractive and morally flawless lead characters, followed by disapproving in-laws, bitchy/boorish contemporaries, a musical makeover montage and a third-act dash to the airport capped off with a round of applause from a bunch of strangers.

If the point of this is to show Western audiences that Eastern culture has become as bland and annoying as their own, then well done, I guess?

Credit where it's due though, the wedding-sequence is stunningly shot. It's just a shame that the rest of the movie hasn't earned that. I also loved the Mandarin-language cover of Yellow, by Katherine Ho. It's not lost on me that the best Coldplay song is no longer by Coldplay, and the world feels better that way.

Movie producers: As I was pressed to observe recently, the studio comedy system in its current form largely sucks. Sure, you can be part of that, it seems like easy money. That's because there's no artistic merit involved. Your work defines your reputation. Don't assimilate, innovate.

Because it's coming to something when one of the comedic highlights of your film is Ken Jeong, which puts Crazy Rich Asians officially on the same shelf as the third Transformers movie and the second Hangover

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Pretty much very rom-com between the mid 90s and the point a few years back where they started putting dick-jokes in them.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's likely.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Gemma Chan's in this, and she's in the upcoming Captain Marvel movie with Sam 'Windu' Jackson and Ben 'Krennic' Mendelsohn.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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