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Crazy Rich Asians (2018)::rating::3.5::rating::3.5

Crazy Rich Asians is pure cotton candy—two hours of fluffy entertainment built on an ironically cynical question:  Could a true fairy tale still exist in the age of social media saturation and TMZ drudgery?  The answer will depend on your own sentimentality and suspension of disbelief.  If you can sift past a few gaps in credibility, you’ll find a sweet, enjoyable film lurking beneath.

Despite the title’s reference to Asians, this story has been translated via many cultures over many centuries.  Rachel (Constance Wu) and Nick (Henry Golding) have been together for a year, and their relationship hums along until he invites her to a wedding in Singapore. En route, Nick springs the surprise that his family is one of the wealthiest in Asia, and he is one of the world’s most eligible bachelors.  This leads to two of the movie’s biggest issues:  In this hyper-connected world, Rachel is one Google search away from discovering the truth.  After a year of dating, how could she not know?  And, Nick’s concealment of such a load of information amounts to a sin of omission.  His dumping all these life-altering secrets on her at the last minute is an asshole move, one that the movie only addresses obliquely.

Thankfully, Crazy Rich Asians has enough strengths to outweigh its lapses in logic.  Wu and Golding are engaging and attractive, and their instant chemistry makes it easy to root for them.  And, it’s an ancient, moldering trope to surround the couple with boisterous eccentrics to liven the story, but two actors find a way to cut through the cliché. Awkafina (who looks like she just wandered in from a Missy Elliot video) plays Rachel’s plucky best friend in a way that balances the one-liners with humanity.  She comes across as a real friend, not just a movie one.   Nico Santos plays Nick’s fashion designer cousin—the self-described “rainbow sheep of the family”—who grows protective of Rachel and shepherds her through a thicket of bitchy relatives and the withering disapproval of Nick’s icy mother (Michelle Yeoh).

Date movies are difficult to pull off, and the proof lies in how few are actually any good.  Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t do anything other romantic comedies haven’t done before, it just does those things well.  It’s a gorgeous film, replete with touristy pans across the Singapore skyline. The cast is perfect, and the music makes for a lively backdrop.  The story gets bogged down with plot in its second half but bounces back up for a strong conclusion.  This is enjoyable, escapist filmmaking, perfect for audiences in search of something a little more lightweight.

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