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Movie Review

Eleanor Young is not a woman to be trifled with. Just ask anyone who's ever mistaken her quiet demeanor for passivity.

Take, say, the manager of a posh London hotel back in 1995, who tried to tell her that the room she'd reserved for her family wasn't available. One phone call later, she owned the place. Suffice it to say that she got the room she'd reserved.

Back in the present, Eleanor's son, Nick, is the apple of her eye. But he's weary of the burden that comes with being the heir apparent to the Young family's sprawling business empire in Singapore. Though Nick's practically treated like a rock star in his home country, he's managed to live a bit more under the radar in New York City for the last several years.

There, he met and fell in love with Rachel Chu, an economics professor at Columbia University and daughter of a hardworking single mom. Somehow, Rachel doesn't know that Nick's practically a crown prince, metaphorically speaking, in his home country. No, to her, Nick's just a polite, attractive, attentive boyfriend.

Just a normal guy. Just like she's a normal girl.

Rachel's thrilled that Nick has invited her to travel with him to Singapore to attend his best friend Colin's wedding, in which Nick will be the best man. After all, whenever Rachel has tried to talk with Nick about his family, he's been pretty quick to change the subject. Now she's finally going to have a chance to meet them.

Rachel's first clue that Nick hasn't quite told her everything about himself comes when they get on the plane … and get a private suite. And champagne. And silk pajamas for the long trip.

Nick tries to explain. "Yes, my family has money," he says modestly. "I've always thought of it as theirs, not mine."

But though Nick's sought to distance himself from his rich relatives, his family has all kinds of plans about his triumphant return to Singapore. Plans that—as Rachel soon discovers—don't include him spending the rest of his life with a "poor" Chinese-American girlfriend. At least as far as his domineering mother, Eleanor, is concerned, that is.

But slowly, Rachel begins to win over key members of Nick's "crazy rich Asian" family—perhaps even beginning to thaw the ice-hard heart of Eleanor Young herself.

Positive Elements

Despite the complex cultural world that Rachel finds herself immersed within, the core story here is straightforward: Nick and Rachel's attempts to earn Eleanor's relational blessing.

But Eleanor is no easy sell. The Young family lives and moves and breathes among the hyper-rich. So having the family's heir apparent marry a woman who's essentially an impoverished "commoner" wouldn't do at all.

Still, Eleanor is not a two-dimensional villain. Multiple conversations reveal ways she has consistently put her family's needs above her own desires.

In fact, the film offers an incisive critique of American culture. Eleanor, especially, disdains a society in which an individual's passion is seen as more important than the needs of a family. She says bluntly to Rachel, "You're a foreigner. An American. And all Americans think about is their own happiness." Elsewhere she says of Asian culture, "We learn to put family first instead of chasing one's passion." Those are observations we Americans would perhaps do well to ponder.

Eleanor also opines, "When children are away from home too long, they forget who they are," an opinion about parenting and family that could be seen as having both positive and problematic elements to it.

Nick, meanwhile, demonstrates his own character by consistently trying to show Rachel that his relationship with her matters more to him than his family's money. He's absolutely loyal to her, saying, "I'll leave all of this behind." And he seems to mean it.

Rachel's mother, Kerry Chu, doesn't have the wealth of Nick's family. But she's worked hard her entire life to provide for her daughter by running a successful small business. And she stands up for Rachel when the chips are down.

Plenty of other colorful characters play smaller encouraging roles in this outsized ensemble drama. Rachel's college roommate, Goh Peik Lin, encourages and supports Rachel at various points. Nick's cousin, Oliver, helps Rachel navigate the complicated sets of familial expectations that she bumps into. Rachel also develops a friendship with Nick's glamorous-but-kind cousin Astrid; the two of them console each other in hard moments they both face.

Astrid, for her part, bravely confronts someone who's betrayed her. We see her treating a young girl very kindly despite her near-royal status. Astrid has also worked hard to make her marriage to an entrepreneur named Michael work, though his deep insecurity at not having as much money as her family has consistently been the biggest struggle in their union.

Spiritual Content

Early on, Eleanor leads a Bible study and reads a section of Colossians 3, including the phrases, "If, then, you have been raised with Christ … set your minds on things above." We also hear references to Ephesians and Corinthians. Eleanor's faith apparently runs deep enough that she forbids Nick and Rachel from sharing a room together in her house during their visit—a conviction that, it's implied, is rooted in her Christian faith.

Elsewhere, we hear a couple of passing references to Asian spiritual beliefs. Rachel's mother, Kerry Chu, encourages her to wear a red dress when she meets Nick's mother because that color is considered good luck. There's another quip about that color representing "fortune and fertility." Someone sarcastically mentions the universe's role in shaping the outcome of our lives.

One character tells another, "You can explore hell, you dog turd!" A woman calls another "an evil person." Someone mentions "finding inner peace." Another exclaims angrily, "God forbid we lose the ancient Chinese tradition of guilting our children."

Sexual Content

Rachel and Nick kiss repeatedly, and they're shown in bed together on a couple of occasions as well. In one of those scenes, he's shirtless, while she's wearing a clingy camisole.

Another of Nick's cousins, Allister Cheng, is a movie director. His girlfriend, actress Kitty Pong, wears very revealing clothing. He gropes her (clothed) breast while embracing her. There are rumors that she starred in a pornographic movie. Later, she's shown in a compromising position with another lover (whose pants are down, but whose shirt mostly covers his obviously bare backside).

Astrid's husband, Michael, is shown in the shower, where we see his torso. The couple kisses and is shown in bed together.

Various female characters wear low-cut, sheer and revealing outfits throughout the film. Multiple men are shirtless. Many women at Colin's wild bachelor party are wearing bikinis. We hear a joke that references "hookers." A guy says enthusiastically, "Let's make some babies!" We see a group of women's bare backs as they receive massages at a spa; one of them quips, "I think my masseuse just got me pregnant."

We learn that one married character is having an affair. We also hear someone had an affair that led to an illegitimate child. Oliver, who's gay, calls himself "the rainbow sheep of the family."

Someone makes an explicit, disparaging comment about Rachel's anatomy. Someone's colorful outfit is mocked as looking like a "clown's tampon" and a "slutty ebola virus." Goh Peik Lin's younger brother is infatuated with Rachel, and he says several inappropriately suggestive things about her and even films her creepily with his camera (without her consent or knowledge) in a scene played for humor. A fountain sculpture includes classically sculpted nudes.

Violent Content

We hear a story about how someone's great-grandfather killed a tiger (which is now stuffed and on display at the entrance to the Young mansion). We also hear that someone's ex-husband used to be physically abusive.

At a bachelorette party, women who are jealous of Rachel put a large, dead, bloody fish in her bed to scare her away from Nick, under the bloody letters, "Catch this you gold-digging b--ch." At Colin's party, a guy repeatedly fires off a rocket launcher into the ocean. (The last time, the recoil from the weapon knocks him down.)

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word, one s-word. We see the profane acronyms "OMFG" and "WTF" in texts. There's also one use of "fricking." God's name is misused about a dozen times, including two pairings with "d--n." Jesus' name is misused once. We hear two uses each of "a--" and "a--hole." There are several uses each of "b--ch" and "b--tard." Characters use one crude reference each to the male and female anatomy.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Characters imbibe various alcoholic beverages (beer, champagne, mixed drinks). Colin's bachelor party takes place on a tanker transport ship that's essentially been turned into a big, floating dance club, and alcohol flows freely there.

Nick looks for cigars in his desk at home. (His mother has gotten rid of them.) Someone casually references drug use in the context of a wild party. We hear a joke about Botox.

Other Negative Elements

Eleanor is coolly polite to Rachel for a while. But when she has an opportunity to do so, she leaves no doubt where she stands, cruelly telling Rachel, "You will never be enough."

A rich Chinese woman tells her picky children, "There's children starving in America!" Someone is said to be like an "Asian Ellen." Rachel is described as being a "banana," an ethinically Asian woman who's "yellow on the outside but white on the inside."

Women go on what one of them describes as a "shopping orgy." Someone says, "No one loves free stuff more than rich people." A woman is said to "fart Chanel No. 5." Several characters deceive loved ones and withhold significant information from them.

Conclusion

A woman of modest means attracts the interest of a crown prince. Haven't we seen this story before?

Ah, yes: Cinderella.

Crazy Rich Asians is essentially an updated version of that beloved fairy tale. Only this time around, it's the heroine who doesn't know the identity of the man she's fallen in love with, instead of the other way around. And finding out proves a pretty traumatic experience for everyone involved.

But as with most fairy tales, things have a pretty good chance of working out in the end. And in this version, we're invited to ponder the differences between two contrasting cultures when it comes to matters of the heart: the Asian values of loyalty and family; the American values of individuality and passion. Both sets of ideals, we see, have their attendant strengths and weaknesses.

Speaking of strengths and weaknesses, Crazy Rich Asians—based on the bestselling 2013 novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan—is generating a rapturous critical response. As of this writing, it's at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film's funny, feel-good story looks set to provide some box-office fireworks for a genre that's struggled as of late.

That said, this film's admittedly likeable characters still make their way through a storyline that's got some problem areas to navigate. Most notably, they include language and sexual innuendo, weaknesses that tarnish this PG-13 romcom's otherwise broad appeal.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Constance Wu as Rachel Chu; Henry Golding as Nick Young; Tan Kheng Hua as Kerry Chu; Awkwafina as Goh Peik Lin; Michelle Yeoh as Eleanor Sung-Young; Gemma Chan as Astrid Leong-Teo; Pierre Png as Michael Teo; Lisa Lu as "Ah Ma" Shang Su Yi; Ronny Chieng as Eddie Cheng; Victoria Loke as Fiona Tung-Cheng; Remy Hii as Alistair Cheng; Nico Santos as Oliver T'sien; Selena Tan as Alexandra 'Alix' Young, Janice Koh as Felicity Young; Ken Jeong as Goh Wye Mun; Koh Chieng Mun as Neena; Colin Khoo; Sonoya Mizuno as Araminta Lee; Jimmy O. Yang as Bernard Tai; Jing Lusi as Amanda "Mandy" Ling; Fiona Xie as Kitty Pong

Director

Jon M. Chu ( )

Distributor

Warner Bros.

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

August 15, 2018

On Video

November 20, 2018

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Adam R. Holz

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

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