Director: Stephen Chow
Year of Release: 2016
Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
After breaking box office records in China, Stephen Chow's hilariously absurd eco-friendly bedtime story The Mermaid gets dumped into a few scattered U.S. theaters with absolutely no promotion or fanfare. What a shame, since after proving he could court international audiences with the likes of Shaolin Soccer and Kung-fu Hustle, there's no reason to assume The Mermaid couldn't have cross-over appeal. The story here is of course ridiculous, involving an ancient race of mermaids whose habitat on the wildlife preserve Green Gulf is threatened when ego-driven businessman Liu Xuan (Chao Deng, in a deftly comedic performance) wishes to build over it to recoup his business expenses. Fetching young mermaid Shan (Yun Lin Jhuang) is sent to pose as a human and seduce Liu in order to eventually kill him, which sets up a zany romance subplot which combines Splash with obviously fake CGI and slapstick-style humor. Chow is a born filmmaker, and his comic sensibilities, despite the silliness of his movie's premise, carries the day here, with each set-piece being more uproarious than the next. There's a visual gag involving a dreadlocked half-man, half-Octopus (a scene-stealing Show Luo) in which he tries to hide his tentacles from the authorities that's one of the funniest things in any comedy in recent memory. This is all to say that The Mermaid is entertaining in that bizarre way Chow's pictures combine broad farce with heightened action and overt sentimentality. The film also has a message; mocking China's elite class and commenting on environmental destruction, but it never feels heavy-handed because whenever you start thinking it will turn self-serious on you, there's a scene where someone gets two sea urchins and a golf club to the face.