Crazy Rich Ab-omination

While watching two white buddies on the couch like zoo animals, I was perplexed how a video game could compel men in their 30s to wear headsets and interact through avatars. It was a bit of a racial role reversal, given how seriously some Asians take their gaming.

Role reversal no. 2 came when they gushed about the movie Crazy Rich Asians and were perplexed how I found it to be horrendous. Perhaps the movements and rhetoric and hashtags have created an overcompensatory environment in Hollywood, and people are afraid to speak poorly of a minority-driven movie.

If I need to step up here as an Asian and vocalize what you white devils are thinking, I will be your yellow knight.

Crazy Rich Asians was a fundamentally bad movie. I appreciated it because I got to see people who look like me dominate the screen for once. That only happens in my parents’ living room when they Chromecast Chinese talk shows with set lighting gaudy enough to cause a seizure through the TV.

Certainly I am excited this important film was made and happy about $165 million at the box office. But it was so bad. People talk about it like it’s Shawshank or something. Am I the crazy one here?

Objectively, if it were the same movie but with a white cast — let’s say Eastern European to keep the premise of an overseas culture — everyone would have walked out before the credits.

I know romantic comedies, and this one goes on the bottom shelf. It’s not even in the same library as 10 Things I Hate About You, Serendipity, You’ve Got Mail, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Friends with Benefits, Crazy Stupid Love, Hitch, America’s Sweethearts, Valentine’s Day

Here are my three main complaints in descending order of severity.

Casting (abs). Honestly, abs (casting).

This particular objection admittedly is less about the movie and more about the psyche of Asian men marginalized in American culture. This was our shot to be sexy.

The shirtless scene in any given rom-com essentially functions as the thumbnail in the brain’s vast memory drive. Or maybe that’s just me.

In any case, we needed to crush this scene for the billion of us around the world and millions swiped left without a fighting chance in favor of nerdy Jewish guys. But when it was finally our turn to introduce to the mainstream a strapping, shirtless Asian male lead… I saw a midsection that resembled a misshapen alien head. We would have been better off with yet another hack small penis joke.

Don’t get me wrong — I liked the guy too. He was charming and handsome, dashing even.

But bro, you have the unenviable task of going up against Gosling, Tatum, Reynolds, Kutcher and the legend himself McConaughey… and you can’t knock out a few planks?

It’s the one thing you can control. Would you show up to a game of 21 with LeBron and Westbrook wearing flip-flops? Why make the impossible even harder? It was like when Sandra Bullock got exasperated with Keanu in Speed after he punctured the gas tank:

What, you thought you needed another challenge or something?

Unless you’re Leo or Johnny Depp, there is a professional obligation to put the requisite work into your body if it’s going to be showcased on a 60-foot screen. Even someone as pretty as Zac Efron went nine zero-carb days eating only organic protein and leafy greens in preparation for Baywatch. And he wasn’t representing an entire gene pool.

It’s not that hard to mess around at the gym for a bit and swallow bland food. I get ridiculed for my stretching-to-lifting ratio and how I seem to reduce weight every session. But I exercise consistently and string together some chicken-and-broccoli meals during the week, so most Saturdays I wake up admiring noticeable definition:

 

 

Plus I work at a desk. You’re a movie star. You can hire a trainer and a chef. You can be one of those mysterious well-dressed creatures somehow going to the gym at 10:30 in the morning. What am I missing here? Why wasn’t more effort made or better yet, Daniel Henney called?

I am still furious.

Dialogue

The script was as thin, flat and cheesy as Cheez-Its and this simile. Everyone knows that discomfort when a stand-up comic is struggling, and you want to laugh but can’t seem to force out even a fake one. I felt that way the whole movie, and I didn’t hear much giggling from the rest of the audience.

Compare that to Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Granted, a rom-com doesn’t have to be laugh-out-loud funny to be entertaining. But the words being said have to at least be not annoying.

Half of the movie sounded like Family Matters in terms of corny jokes and awkward heart-to-hearts. When the best man and groom left that rager of a bachelor party and found a little island to talk about their feelings, I was looking around the theater like what is happening.

It was unbearably cheesy. He actually called him his best friend. No guy past elementary school calls another guy his best friend to his face. There are no circumstances when this is necessary.

And it was a bachelor party, my god. After Nashville 2016, I’m not sure a bachelor party even really begins until someone gets a black eye. Before mine, my wife felt the need to reach out to select attendees and specifically instruct them not to mess up my face before the wedding.

This script needed a laugh track and would have killed on TBS in the 90s.

Chemistry

The acting and talent were good, but it was more Minnesota Timberwolves than Golden State Warriors. Solid individual performers didn’t make each other better or the team greater than the sum of the parts.

They played their roles capably but had weak chemistry together — the main couple, the gorgeous cousin and cheating husband, daughter-mom, son-mom. Everything felt stuck in low gear.

I didn’t feel the connection I did while getting misty-eyed three times during Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Sure I was pulling for the all-around happy ending, but if the last scene had turned out to be like the Red Wedding… eh, you can’t win ’em all.

Crazy Rich Asians held attention well but was neither romantic nor comedic. From my racially biased perspective, it was a missed opportunity that hopefully still opened the door for more opportunity.

 

 

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