“Crazy Rich Asians” is an odd sort of movie. It’s the sort of thing that might usually play as a television soap opera, and in that regard, it is forgettable. However, forcing what would usually feel sappy, sour and annoying in separate 20-minute segments into one 2-hour experience only manages to create one of the most acute feelings of displeasure I have felt at the movies in quite a while.
A romantic comedy about the heir to an extremely rich Singaporean family falling in love with a middle-class Asian-American, “Crazy Rich Asians” (CRA) is based on a New York Times bestselling book.
Its literary roots are quite apparent all throughout the movie. Do not expect any parts of this film, comedic or otherwise, to use delivery, visual technique, or really anything else this story might have gained from moving to the screen to its advantage. The film instead decides to tell, rather than show, the audience every joke and plot element, making sure to explain and over-explain exactly what is happening in each scene. Its comedy is purely auditory.
This flaw, while certainly a negative, would be salvageable if the writing were entertaining or interesting. Neither of those are adjectives I would use to describe “CRA.” The comedy never strays from the most predictable notes possible.
The movie does not even try to use to its advantage any unique or earnest ironies or observations. Instead, it keeps to the normal sub-types that melodramas love to re-use so much: the metrosexual, the crazy friend, the domineering parental figure.
The dramatic elements also keep to established and dull archetypes. Instead of using comedic segments to develop or grow characters, “Crazy Rich Asians” forces its characters to constantly follow trite and safe tropes, never attempting character growth or subtlety. These characters do not live in reality; instead, they reside in the world all bad melodramas do – their own.
If that isn’t bad enough, pairing it with a will-they-or-won’t-they plot directly taken from thousands of other similar movies is a perfect recipe for a lack of emotional connection from the audience.
That is not to say “Crazy Rich Asians” has absolutely no redeemable factors. Without the jokes, it could make quite a good comedy – after all, to watch a film fail at drama is comedic. Unfortunately, to watch a film fail at comedy is tragic.