Main cast: Constance Wu (Rachel Chu), Henry Golding (Nick Young), Michelle Yeoh (Eleanor Sung-Young), Gemma Chan (Astrid Leong-Teo), Lisa Lu (Shang Su Yi), Awkwafina (Goh Peik Lin), Harry Shum Jr (Charlie Wu), Ken Jeong (Goh Wye Mun), Sonoya Mizuno (Araminta Lee), Chris Pang (Colin Khoo), Jing Lusi (Amanda Ling), and Pierre Png (Michael Teo)
Director: Jon M Chu
There is something very off with the media in the US and UK these days. Maybe it’s because of you-know-who taking the White House with the alleged help of Russia, but there is an increasingly hysterical need for white people in the media, especially those in the San Francisco and Portland areas, to bay about how woke they are. Consequently, there is this mad race to automatically embrace anything that features people of color as a classical masterpiece. It doesn’t matter whether the story is good, as long as there is a lack of white males, it’s an automatic thumbs up from all these white people. I don’t know why they have to be like this. Are they compensating for something?
Crazy Rich Asians is an interesting case because it is universally praised by white people while the reception of this movie among the folks in my part of the world, most of whom are of the same race of the cast, are more mixed. Quite a number of Chinese people – you know, the people who are of the same race as the cast of this movie – give this movie the side eye because, once again, some people in Hollywood even in their most woke delusions once again betray their innate racism by lumping Japanese and Chinese into one single race, even if there is still bad blood between the more patriotic Chinese and Japanese stemming from World War 2 atrocities committed by the Japanese. There is a Malay princess in this movie that is played by… ta-da, a Christian Filipino woman who doesn’t look Malay even a little, and let’s just say that some Muslims won’t be so amused that a Christian is playing a Muslim character in a movie. And, of course, no matter how woke this people claim to be, they still dare not take the risk of casting an actual Chinese as the leading man. Henry Golding is Eurasian – half-Caucasian, half-Iban – and there is no way he looks even a little Chinese like his character Nick Young is supposed to be. I suppose he looks Caucasian enough, though, so that the woke white people watching this movie won’t be scared off by anything too Chinese.
Not that I am offended by this blatant, racist pulping and blending of the many diverse races and cultures of Asian by woke white people into one bland gruel called “White People Love These Pale-Skinned People of Color from China, Japan, or Whatever Because Doing So Make Them Feel Better Than Everyone Else”. Hey, it’s not the first time this happens, and it certainly won’t be the last. I’m just pointing this out to contrast the hilariously self-serving love lavished by some folks with the more mixed reactions among people who are more familiar with the culture and lifestyles of the characters in this movie. Somehow, due to timing, this movie has become another vehicle for self-righteous people who are far less intelligent than they pretended to be, and this is unfortunate because the movie is a tired, contrived romantic comedy cobbled together using hackneyed tropes in a most uninspired manner.
The premise itself is contrived. Am I to believe that Nick Young, a Chinese from a kiasu family in Singapore, will actually hide his wealth from other people? That is a laugh in itself. Or that he thinks it is a good idea to leave his girlfriend Rachel completely unprepared about his background, his family, the reception she will get from these people, and oh, the ex-girlfriend when he brings her to visit the family? If I were Rachel, a few hard slaps will be in order because sheesh, what an asshole. How realistic is it that Rachel, a professor, is so ignorant on how to fit in among the filthy rich kiasu Chinese people in Singapore? Can’t she look up YouTube or something on things like how to address Chinese old ladies?
Instead, Rachel is this bland, hapless, insecure neurotic whackjob who gets pushed around. Worse, she eventually bleats about how her lack of pedigree makes her unworthy of Nick – this, from a twenty-first century woman? Our heroine is pushed and pulled around like a tofu-spined and tofu-brained Harlequin Mills & Boon Modern heroine stuck in the short bus, while other pretty women are either bitchy hags or “I side with Rachel!” sorts with no in-between.
It’s hard for me to care about Crazy Rich Asians because the heroine is just so… boring. Nick’s siblings are all losers, so when the predictable disapproving meanie mother of Nick tells her that she is not good enough for Nick, she could have thrown back at the woman’s face that her sons are all useless and spineless wastes of carbon material, but no, our heroine is too dumb dumb to do anything other than to play the victim. Nick is even worse – he’s a dim-witted kind of boring. Her mother insists that he is going to take over his father’s business but he displays no knowledge, expertise, or inclination to be even halfway good at the job. That family is going to lose its fortune in one generation – mark my words. The rest of the cast are one-dimensional stereotypes in action, so yawn.
Also, I’m puzzled by what I am supposed to take home from this movie. It makes fun of the materialistic nature of the rich Chinese community in Singapore, but at the same time, it never allows Nick and Rachel to trigger any subversion to the premise. Nick is still Nick, he still has the same pain-in-the-ass mother and grandmother, and Rachel is going to marry into that family with all its unpleasant people unchanged. So what does all this tell me? A wedding ring miraculously makes all the bad things go away? Meanwhile, the problems faced by various characters in this movie are all eventually swept aside after some tedious hand-wringing because they realize that they are rich and hence, they can pay the problems to go away. What seems to be a satire, therefore, feels a lot like the subject it is supposed to be satirizing in the end.
On the bright side, Awkwafina steals the movie easily and Michelle Yeoh slips into her role with an ease that will probably make anyone about to marry into her family get some second thoughts. For the most part, though, this is a romantic comedy with way more misses than hits. I’d suggest waiting for it to hit the streaming channels instead of paying for an overpriced movie ticket to catch this thing.