Movie review: 'Crazy Rich Asians'

Brad Keefe
"Crazy Rich Asians"

Confession: I have a soft spot for unabashed, crowd-pleasing rom-coms — the kind that is so glossy and cheesy you just have to go with it.

“Crazy Rich Asians” is a superb example of this. It's lively and funny and sweet. It's not a musical, but the whole movie justsings.

Added bonus: Its star-studded cast is a great leap in representation of Asian-Americans from a big Hollywood film.

Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is a native New Yorker and economics professor at a university. She's excited for her first trip to Asia, accompanying her boyfriend, Nick (Henry Golding), to his best friend's wedding in Singapore.

Handsome, kind and charming, Nick has kept a secret from Rachel — the kind of secret that only guys in romantic comedies like this keep — his family is one of the wealthiest in Asia.

So Rachel enters his world of high society with trepidation. Nick's mother (Michelle Yeoh) bristles at the idea of her son, one of China's most eligible bachelors, settling down with a commoner.

“Crazy Rich Asians” is certainly more welcoming than Nick's mother. It's a colorful rom-com that plays like a big Hallmark movie, and I mean that as a compliment.

Its Singapore setting won't teach you as much about modern Chinese culture as it will about the culture of the ultra-elite. It's opulent, although most of its inhabitants are as likable and grounded as Nick.

It shies from making much commentary about the wealthy, but it's set in almost another world. Director Jon M. Chu spares little in visual razzle-dazzle. The energy feels a lot like “La La Land” … again, without songs.

Chu checks off many of the cliche boxes on the rom-com list, but the target audience won't mind a bit.

Wu oozes the kind of “fish out of water” charms that made Julia Roberts a generational star with “Pretty Woman.” And if the movie has a scene-stealer, it's rapper and actress Awkwafina, making the most of the requisite quirky friend role.

“Crazy Rich Asians” bubbles along with enough joy to make an audience overlook the absurdities of the story.

This is the first adaptation of the popular trilogy of books by Kevin Kwan, and I'm looking forward to future installments. It's the anti-“Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Opens Thursday

4 stars out of 5

“Crazy Rich Asians”