A delightfully silly fantasy adventure from Kung Fu Hustle director Stephen Chow
In The Mermaid, Stephen Chow doesn’t so much take the fish out of water as bodily catapult her out of her lagoon, into the world of ravenous land developer Liu Xuan (Deng). Liu is all set to reclaim conservation area Green Gulf with the use of some deadly sonar and the assistance of sharklike realtor Li Ruolan (Zhang). Rendered in wide-eyed, snaggle-toothed charm by newcomer Jelly Lin, mermaid (merperson, surely?) Shan is tasked with the seduction and assassination of Liu by her tribe of merfolk. So far, so silly.
Since this is a Chow film, the more ridiculous elements of such a premise are rejoiced in. Shan gets around on her fins with an awkward shuffling gait, hunched, fishlike posture… and the use of a skateboard. Her assassination attempts are inept to the max; in one scene, she successfully poisons herself and stabs her own hand.
Beguiled by the prospect of another Stephen Chow movie? You’ve probably already been lured by the siren absurdity of 2004’s Kung Fu Hustle, or foundered on 2013’s rockier Journey to the West. Chow habitués will be primed for hyperbolic acting, ludicrous wirework, ugly CGI and outlandish action sequences. Rest assured, those points will be satisfied.
But there’s also an attempt to harpoon a moral; indeed The Mermaid’s subject matter adds salience for a country as ravaged by pollution and overpopulation as China. This results in some tonal discordance between the film’s cartoonish artifice and its environmental concern. Of course, hero Liu learns that money isn’t everything, and there’s often a toll to be paid for material gain. But ultimately, Chow barely gets his feet wet in such treacherous waters, never wading in far enough to risk being out of his depth.
A music video for Invincible, a making of featurette that chiefly explores the cast’s tribulations shooting in freezing cold water and a brief behind the scenes chat with the actors. Deploy the English dub if you really want to ratchet a ridiculous experience up to full-on lunacy.
Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment