By Troy Ribeiro
Film: "Crazy Rich Asians"; Director: Jon M. Chu; Cast: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Harry Shum Jr., Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remy Hii, Nico Santos, Jing Lusi, Tan Kheng Hua, Carmen Soo, Pierre Png, Fiona Xie, Victoria Loke, Janice Koh, Amy J. Cheng, Koh Chieng Mun, Calvin Wong; Rating: **1/2
With an all-Asian cast and highlighting far-east culture, "Crazy Rich Asians" is a frothy mix of the familiar romantic comedy cliches and tropes of the early 90s. Rich it certainly is, but crazy debatable. It is a classic ballad of life among the 1 per cent rich which displays their absurd extravaganza and shallow life.
Based on a novel of the same name, by Kevin Kwan, it is the love story of Rachel Chu - an ordinary woman who was raised by a working class, single, Chinese mother in New York and now works as an Economics Professor. She has been dating Nick Young for some time now.
One day over dinner at a restaurant, Nick casually tells Rachel to be his date for the wedding of his best friend Colin in Singapore and then spend the summer travelling through Southeast Asia. The request seems innocent enough, but then, someone among the patrons of the restaurant snaps a picture of the duo and texts it to her friends.
Suddenly the screen explodes in a cacophony of text messages, angry gifs and animated emojis, as the entirety of Singapore's elite tries to figure out who is this mystery woman in Nick Young's life.
That's because, unbeknownst to Rachel, Nicholas Young aka Nick is a man of Singaporean Pedigree. He is the scion of the richest and oldest family on the wealthy island nation. The news of Nick dating Rachel reaches Singapore much before the couple show up, where Nick's extended family wait in anticipation.
So when Rachel lands in Singapore she is introduced to the world of the cloistered elites, Nick's former girlfriends and hangers-on and their disapprovals. The romantic stakes are misconstrued as gold-digging aspiration only by judgemental snobs, suspicious relatives and gossiping meddlers. But the main conflict hinges on Nick's mother's acceptance of Rachel as her daughter-in-law.
The nearly two-hour run time mostly consists of a lot of blandly nice people having a nice time, celebrating the extravagance of an elite lifestyle of luxury. It is intended to contrast Rachel's humble, hard-working and honest sensibilities. The plot is fairly formulaic but pleasant enough to keep you engaged despite the scenes being insipid. There are moments that you nearly lose interest in the lives of rich and hardly famous. And, those scenes with some depth, are almost predictable and forgettable.
What keeps you engaged though is the fresh faces you see on the silver screen. Constance Wu as Rachel Chu and Henry Golding as Nick Young, exude some honesty in their respective portrayals. They are a charming and lovable duo that in normal circumstances your heart would bleed for.
Among the supporting cast Awkwafina with her brightly coloured mane and Ken Jeong, make their presence felt. Michelle Yeoh as Nick's formidable mother is staid and underplayed.
Overall, with ace production values, "Crazy Rich Asians" is a fizzy fantasy with the missing zing.
(Troy Ribeiro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)