'Crazy Rich Asians' concentrates on "rich"
By Martha K. Baker
The rare fact of a film's having an entire cast of Asians should be cause for applause. In the case of "Crazy Rich Asians," it's not. No matter the ethnic heritage of the cast, "Crazy Rich Asians" still concentrates on the second adjective, on "rich," which means it's more about conspicuous consumption than comedy.
"Crazy Rich Asians" bills itself as a Cinderella comedy. There are comedic moments, mostly in the sidekick work of comedian/rapper Awkwafina. But the film isn't very funny unless you get the inside jokes. As for being a romcom, it fulfills the "rom" part with the two major players, Rachel and Nick.
They're both professors. He's the son of rich developers in Singapore, but she does not know that until he invites her home for his best friend's wedding. Constance Wu, who plays Rachel, recently referred to her character as a confused "girl." The woman has a Ph.D., for heaven's sake! She's no child. Out of her element at the university, however, Rachel wanders around lost.
She will get no guidance from Nick's formidable mother, played icily by Michelle Yeoh. Mother thinks her son can do better. Than an economics professor? Playing Nick, but not well, is Henry Golding, who's not fully Asian, but he has the oft-revealed naked torso needed to promote the idea that Asian males are sexy too. The cast includes Asian actors Ken Jeong, Lisa Lu, Harry Shum Jr., and Ronny Chieng.
Director Jon M. Chu, who had fun with Rachel Chu's surname, created a world of wealth and serves well as a travel agent for fabulous Singapore. "Crazy Rich Asians" is based on Kevin Kwan's novel with a screenplay by Peter Chicarelli and veteran television writer Adele Lim.
"Crazy Rich Asians" is too long and too glitzy. Its producers forgot the rule from "The Merchant of Venice" that "all that glisters is not gold." This attention to the wealth of the 1% is just conspicuous consumption of another sort, and it ain't pretty or funny.