Before I watched Slenderman, I watched Crazy Rich Asians two or three weeks ago. I'd give a spoiler-free consumer review, but since you can tell from the trailer that this is basically My Big Fat Greek Wedding mixed with the plot of every single Hallmark Original Channel movie ever, there's really nothing to spoil. You know exactly what the plot of this movie is. They're rich. They're Asian. They're somewhat crazy, although in my opinions pretty calm and rational. But that last part is just my opinion. Just saying, everything that the mother stands for makes sense to me, and she seems exceptionally level-headed. As is most everyone in the movie, with the exception of a few friends.
Okay, so here are the basics on the quality and style of the movie:
- Its main selling point is that the cast feels fresh and unique and charming. They are all well-acted and all of the characters are very likable. I can't think of a single character that I didn't enjoy. I could hang out with any one of these people.
- While the characters are good, the story does have that much dramatic tension. You never feel that the stakes are exceptionally high and the central "will they make their relationship work out" question never gets particularly emotionally strenuous.
- It does not have one of those moments that's almost obligatory in romantic comedies where there's a giant, long, painstaking miscommunication and/or lie that gets incredibly awkward and makes you feel embarrassed for the main character. This is a staple of romantic comedies, and it ducks the trend.
- It does not dive exceptionally deep into Asian culture. Not just the street-level culture, but even the affluent culture. This isn't a case study in the same way that Pride and Prejudice is. It is primarily a comedy.
- With that having been said, it still does offer some insight on how Asians differ from Americans, particularly when it comes to family values.
There are some talking points to be made with this movie. I watched it with a Christian friend and we actually had quite a bit to say. There are several people that I would recommend this to, particularly because of the talking point surrounding how much emphasis people put on family cohesiveness versus individualism, and what types of happiness are the most worth pursuing. There are also people like my grandmother who I would re-watch this movie with in a heartbeat, because she loves those Hallmark Channel original movies (for the record, this is produced, directed, written, and acted significantly better than a Hallmark Channel movie, so don't let that comparison turn you off).
While I said that the movie doesn't have much suspense or sense of stakes, I would attribute that to the lack of a contrived misunderstanding. You know, the one that makes you squirm in your seat and watch the movie through your fingers because it's just so embarrassing to watch. That does tend to increase suspense and stakes, but I'd rather have an easygoing movie without that trope. The other reason why suspense wasn't overly present was because, again in defiance of tropes, the guy's Asian family is actually pretty level-headed and reasonable. They have different values, but they're not completely oblivious and without appreciation of Westernization and Modernization. They aren't quite Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof. They are definitely aware that there's a lot that they can work out, just as you have to do with any marriage. I think that it was even played in the movie as "What if they absolutely hate me?" and then it turns out that they're only as suspicious of her as any other potential in-laws would be. The tension does go up a little in the third act, but at no point did I find the family unreasonable. Of course, that's my subjective experience.
On a side note (and I read TMD's blog about this, too), I found it really interesting to hear Chinese and actually recognize what was being said. I'd wager that TMD understood more than me, considering that I just know a few pages out of the phrasebook, but that was certainly an interesting experience and I definitely got personal enjoyment from the movie on those grounds.
Overall assessment: great movie for a date night, or even a casual outing with friends. Opens up some doors for interesting casual discussions, or serious, if you so desire. I do not consider the movie particularly challenging, in the sense that it isn't suspenseful, but I've already had Infinity War, Fallen Kingdom, Skyscraper, and The Incredibles 2, so this is a relaxing change of pace. I can only go on a roller coaster ride before I want to spend some time chilling on the lazy river, which as a little known fact is actually the best ride in the whole water park. That bit of advice was free. Unless you're crazy rich, then please cough up.