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REVIEW: ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is funny & uplifting, but ….

August 24th, 2018 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is funny & uplifting, but ….

Nick Young is a charming bachelor living in the United States who happens to come from one of the most well-known and wealthy families in China.

His girlfriend, though, knows nothing of his fame. Her name is Rachel Chu, a Chinese American who teaches economics and is the youngest professor at New York University. Her background is middle class, having come from a self-made single mother who put her daughter ahead of her happiness. Rachel’s future in academia seems bright.  

Nick believes he’s discovered the woman of his dreams – the woman he will marry – but first, he must win the blessing of his family back in Asia. And he hopes that will take place during a trip to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding.

Thus, Nick and Rachel board an airplane to cross the Pacific for one of the most extravagant weddings ever held. Unfortunately, though, few of Nick’s family members or friends like Rachel. First off, she comes from a common background. She’s not rich. Second, she has American values – not Asians ones. But their biggest problem? She’s a Chinese American, and not native-born Chinese.

What will Nick choose if he must pick between his family and Rachel?

The romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians (PG-13) is now in theaters, telling the story of a young man who is the successor to his family’s business and wealth but must decide if he will throw it all away when his mother rejects Rachel. The film is drawing attention in part because it is being billed as the first Hollywood film in 25 years to feature an all-Asian cast in a modern setting.

It stars Henry Golding as Nick Young; Constance Wu as Rachel Chu; Michelle Yeoh (Kung Fu Panda 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 2) as Nick’s mother, Eleanor; and Awkwafina (Ocean’s 8, Storks) as Rachel’s quirky friend, Peik Lin Goh.

Rachel is the film’s primary character, as we watch her emotions evolve from shock (at Nick’s wealth) to depression (at the family’s reaction) to resolve (to see Nick’s family change).   

Crazy Rich Asians is one of the funniest and most touching romantic comedies of the year, and it also carries with it several positive lessons normally not seen in Hollywood comedies (partially because Nick’s family are Christian). Unfortunately, it has enough sexual innuendo and language to prevent me from fully endorsing it for families.   

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Minimal. We see two men fighting on a movie set.

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Moderate. The film doesn’t contain the wall-to-fall low-brow humor found in other comedies – or any nudity, either -- but it has just enough sexual content to frustrate the traditional moviegoer. Nick and Rachel sleep in the same bed; we don’t see them do anything except briefly kiss, sex is implied. We see two people make out (standing up, in public) on a movie set. We hear a joke about a female visitor to a party being a porn star. We learn that someone (not Nick or Rachel) is having an affair. Someone makes fun of Rachel’s anatomy. For parents, two of the biggest problems in the movie involve immodest dress throughout the film and a bachelor party on a boat that contains women in bikinis. Thankfully, Nick has enough sense to leave the out-of-control party. The film contains frequent kissing.    

Coarse Language

Moderate. About 26 coarse words: a-- (5), OMG (5), b--ch (4), h-ll (3), GD (2), s--t (2), d--n (2), f-word (1), misuse of “Jesus” (1), b---ard (1). Much of the language is said by two characters: Peik Lin Goh and another male character (not Nick).

Other Positive Elements

Nick’s mother leads a Bible study, and we hear her and her friends quoting verses. (“Set your minds on things that are above,” she says). Someone says of Rachel, “I do hope she’s a good Christian girl.” Later, we learn they are Methodist. Nick’s family is close; his grandmother still lives with the family. The family-centric nature of the Asian culture of one of the major themes. Indeed, the film celebrates not only families but large family structures.    

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

We see people drinking and gambling.

Life Lessons

Crazy Rich Asians includes positive messages against racism and on forgiveness, humility, putting family first (see below) and wealth. Despite growing up in a filthy-rich environment, Nick doesn’t boast about his money. In fact, he goes so far as to shield Rachel from the truth. She doesn’t discover his family is rich until they’re on the airplane, in the first-class section. Why? He wanted a wife who loved him for who he was – and not for what he had. Contrast that with his family, who only hang out with those who are rich.

Worldview/Application

Nick’s mom has her problems, but she raises a few valid questions, too. Among them: What should we do when we’re choosing between family and career? “We know to put family first instead of chasing one’s passion,” she says, affirming what she sees as the Asian ideal. She’s critical of Rachel and other Americans for casting aside their family to pursue their dreams. In her mind, you can’t have both. And in Crazy Rich Asians, she has a point. If Nick and Rachel marry, then they might move to America and leave the family’s business in ruins. Is it possible to have both? Scripture commands us to care for our family (1 Timothy 5:8). It also tells husbands and wives to leave and cleave (Genesis 2:24). The topic is too complex to provide a full treatment here, but Crazy Rich Asians raises a few topics that are worthy of discussion over a hot cup of coffee.   

What Works

The comedy. (A father tells the kids to eat their food because there are “a lot of children starving in America.”) The film also does a nice job introducing an American audience to Asian traditions.

What Doesn’t

Some of the content. Take out about four minutes of the film and a few coarse words, and this film is flirting with a PG rating. Too bad Hollywood falsely believes moviegoers won’t support PG movies.  

Discussion Questions

1. Does a person’s wealth change how you view him or her? Why or why not?

2. What is God’s purpose for wealth?

3. If Nick’s family were Christians, then why did they mistreat Rachel?

4. Who was right in the debate about family and happiness – Nick’s mom, or Nick and Rachel?

5. What is the movie’s message about racism and diversity?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Crazy Rich Asians is rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and language.