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Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 12:04 am

Crazy a beautiful, bland affair

 

In addition to The Meg, which is also currently in wide release, Crazy Rich Asians is a film co-produced by American and Chinese studios, an effort to appeal not only to viewers in the United States but those in the Far East as well, a market that Hollywood studios are now focusing on. The advent of digital media has made it much easier and more economical to expand to this region of millions of potential ticket-buyers, and some of the financial peril is minimized when two companies split the cost. Asians is a less-risky venture than The Meg, with its budget of $20 million compared to The Meg’s $130 million, however, it remains a crucial venture as it serves as a barometer as to whether or not Stateside viewers will be open to Asian-centric films.

Based on the novel by Kevin Kwan, Asians is a pleasant enough affair, though hardly narratively groundbreaking – think of an episode of “Dynasty” but with a much lighter tone. While there’s nothing startling or original about this culture-clash romance, other films have worked with less and succeeded. The pace of this predictable affair flirts with tedium throughout while the entire story is brought low with superfluous subplots that bring nothing to the table.

Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is a sociology professor from New York City who’s traveling overseas to attend a wedding and meet her boyfriend Nick Young’s (Henry Golding) family, chief among them the stern matriarch Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh). Unbeknownst to this lamb being led to a social slaughter, the Youngs are loaded, a family built on the type of old money that has not only fantastic wealth, but high social standing as well. Poor Rachel finds this out the hard way when, upon landing in Singapore, she’s the envy and target of quite a few other women her age who’ve had their eyes set on Nick. Not only are these harpies out to get her, but Eleanor has already determined that an American, though of Asian descent, will never be good enough for her darling boy.

In addition to this mildly-engaging story, the familial trials of Nick’s cousins are delved into as well. Fashion icon and philanthropist Astrid (Gemma Chan) is a loving wife whose husband (Pierre Png) suffers from a massive inferiority complex that will come back to haunt them; Alistair (Remy Hii) is squandering his part of the Young fortune producing a film because he’s enamored with its sexy star (Constance Lau); and Eddie (Ronny Chieng) is a ruthless tycoon who treats his family with disdain and flaunts his money every chance he gets.

The result of these intersecting storylines is more pedestrian than intriguing. Each plot point plods along, crawling from one predictable turn after another, none of them generating a modicum of narrative suspense. And while the characters are appealing enough and the cast is very beautiful and handsome, the story they’re trapped in is as exciting as a beige-on-beige ensemble.

Rachel’s best friend Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina) provides some hearty laughs, and, if nothing else, Crazy is a fantastic tool for Singapore’s tourism industry as the country is effectively showcased as a paradise replete with 21st century innovation. The locale comes off as far more interesting than those who inhabit it, which may encourage travel to this Pacific region, but likely won’t have American filmgoers clamoring for more films set there.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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