Crazy Rich Asians
★★★☆☆

One of 2018’s most delightful cinematic surprises is Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s hit novel about a Chinese American professor who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend's relatives and discovers that she’s about to marry into one of the richest families in Southeast Asia. In addition to being the first film by a major studio since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club to feature an all Asian and Asian-American cast, Crazy Rich Asians feels like it could actually be a studio movie from ’93—in that it is a sincere, unapologetic, non-ironic Hollywood romcom. While not the caliber of the genre’s best ‘90s entries, like Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) or Groundhog Day (1993)the picture is on par with the likes of Pretty Woman (1990), My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)and many of the other endlessly re-watchable romantic comedies made before audiences and the film industry decided that this genre had become too “formulaic.”  That dismissive label is an absurd critique (especially in today’s superhero dominated landscape) since all Hollywood movies are built on formulas in one way or another. The magic of popular cinema is most often found in a filmmaker’s ability to transcend formula rather than subvert it or co-opt it—something celebrated contemporary directors like Judd Apatow, Paul Feig, and a fresh crop of hacks making bromances and anti-romcoms don’t seem to understand.

The laugh-out-loud-funny Crazy Rich Asians has a lot going for it, first and foremost its wonderful cast. In addition to the attractive young leads (Constance Wu and Henry Golding), Aquafina makes her rote role—the wacky best friend providing exposition and broad comedy—feel fresh and fun. Nico Santos doesn’t exactly reinvent the character of the witty gay friend who happily goes along with the established conventions of the status quo while still managing to be above them all, but every second he’s on screen delights and strikes no false notes. Hong Kong action icon Michelle Yeoh dazzles as the family matriarch, a formidable antagonist who’s reasoning and rational feels earned rather than arbitrary. She and Wu have a couple of solid interactions that are precisely the kind of confrontation scenes that give a good romcom its bite.

It’s not a spoiler to say that Crazy Rich Asians is a fantasy film; both in terms of the extravagant excesses displayed, and also in that it’s a story that unabashedly allows its heroine to win her prince without sacrificing her principles. This kind of outcome only happens in the movies, but that does not mean fantasy pictures like this one perpetuate false dreams. Pictures like this are dreams, and wonderfully entertaining dreams at that. No doubt there will be sequels to this film (the book was the first in a series) and I have no idea if I’ll have patience for more stories set in this lavish world, but on it’s own, Crazy Rich Asians easily ranks as one of my favorite movies of the year.

Twitter Capsule:
Chu delivers a sincere, unapologetic, non-ironic Hollywood romcom that celebrates the joyous fantasy of winning your prince without sacrificing your principles. A return to form for a much-maligned genre!

Directed by Jon M. Chu
Produced by Nina Jacobson, John Penotti, and Brad Simpson

Screenplay by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim
Based on the novel by Kevin Kwan

With: 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, Carmen Soo, Pierre Png, Fiona Xie, Victoria Loke, Janice Koh, Amy Cheng, and Kevin Kwan

Cinematography: Vanja Cernjul
Editing: Myron I. Kerstein
Music: Brian Tyler

Runtime: 120 min
Release Date: 15 August 2018
Aspect Ratio: 2.39 : 1
Color