Warner Bros.’ sumptuous adaptation of bestselling novel “Crazy Rich Asians” impressed most early critics, who also regretted how much weight will be placed on its box-office performance. Not since Rob Marshall–helmed “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005) has there been a studio film centered on an Asian cast, while 1993’s “The Joy Luck Club” was the last one set in modern times. Jon M. Chu’s jet-setting and heartrending multigenerational spectacle is currently rated 100 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Constance Wu and Henry Golding star as courting NYU professors who fly to his native Singapore to attend a wedding. Throughout their journey, she learns that his kin has millions to spare, and a stern mother (Michelle Yeoh) pressuring him to return home, run the family business, and find a partner with a similar-sized inheritance.
“The Proposal” veteran Peter Chiarelli penned the script with former “Private Practice” EP Adele Lim. Kevin Kwan — who wrote the book and its two sequels — executive produced with Nina Jacobson (“The Hunger Games” franchise), Brad Simpson (“World War Z”), and John Penotti (“Brad’s Status”). Netflix jockeyed to distribute the entire trilogy, but the filmmakers went with a traditional studio, hoping their project would have a bigger cultural impact, and inspire Hollywood executives to view inclusive storytelling as not risky but necessary.
Read on for a round-up of the reviews:
“A vivacious love letter to contemporary Asian culture…Wu’s buoyant, bright-eyed performance makes her impossible not to root for.”
“A movie that expertly manages to balance the opulence of incalculable wealth with the pragmatic, well-grounded sensibility embodied by its heroine…’Crazy Rich Asians’ won’t bomb, and while it won’t beat ‘Black Panther’ either, the film is every bit as exciting in the way it takes an ethnic group that is seldom given more than one or two supporting roles per movie and populates an entire blockbuster with memorable, multidimensional Asian characters.”
“The dramatic center holds, rather beautifully. Wu, a memorable tiger-mom spitfire on ‘Fresh Off the Boat,’ makes a complete reversal here as a sympathetic Lizzie Bennet-like heroine who schemes only in self-defense. Golding, meanwhile, incarnates the screen charisma of a young Tyrone Power; he has only to flash his mega-watt smile to slip a scene into his immaculately tailored pocket.”
“I wanted things to be a little crazier, I guess, wild high-society intrigue staged with the satisfying bite of mean, wicked satire…’Crazy Rich Asians’ is novel for being an American studio movie that shows us a different horror of excess. But it’s still excess, and the movie’s wan barbs are not enough to counter all the celebration. The film gives you the odd opportunity to feel swoony and gross at the same time, carried away by the lavishness while also knowing it’s wrong.”
“It’s clear nobody had faith in a fluffy rom-com about the lives and loves of Asian people going down smoothly without a heaping spoonful of affluence porn. Luckily, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is, at its heart, a fish-out-of-water story, and it has a lot more going for it than its literal money shots…Rachel and Eleanor’s battle comes to a head over a game of mah jongg, and it’s one of the more impressive and smart rom-com climaxes I’ve seen, as full-hearted as it is smart.”
“Seeing a major U.S. studio throw its resources behind a film with a virtually all-Asian cast brings with it an added dimension of trailblazing scrutiny. That’s a lot of baggage, but like almost everything else in this meticulously appointed film, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ wears it well.”
“Wu and Yeoh are perfectly cast in this at-odds relationship, and share crackling chemistry that often threatens to overshadow the romantic relationship they’re fighting over.”
“Is it as good as the book? No. Did it make me happy? Oh yes, and how nice to be reminded what a gift a joyful rom-com can be.”
Warner Bros. will release “Crazy Rich Asians” this Wednesday, August 15.