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The Mermaid - Movie Poster
Original Title:

China 2016


Stephen Chow

Deng Chao
Jelly Lin
Kitty Zhang Yuqi
Show Luo
Tsui Hark
Kris Wu
Wen Zhang
Lu Zhengyu
Lee Sheung-Ching
Chiu Chi-Ling

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The Mermaid

The Mermaid - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Liu Xuan (Deng Chao) is a billionaire and buys the Green Gulf in order to build a giant park there. Since he needs to get rid of the local sea inhabitants Liu orders a sonar to be built. Among the sea residents who need to flee from the machine are also mermen and mermaids. They live offshore in an old grounded ship and now devise a plan to kill Liu Xuan. Beautiful mermaid Shan (Lin Yun) is supposed to seduce the billionaire and then lead him into a trap. She manages to get on one of Liu's excessive parties and leaves him her phone number. Since the tycoon wants to make his new business partner Ruo-lan (Zhang Yuqi) jealous he even agrees to go on a date with the disguised mermaid, even though he actually has no interest in her. It turns out, though, that she is the first person who is not interested in Liu's money and is completely different from all the women he has met before. He slowly falls in love with Shan and the mermaid can't bring herself to kill him anymore. But Liu is taking the living environment away from the sea inhabitants and they are slowly dying...

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The Mermaid - Film Screenshot 4

Review: China's most successful movie to date is a work by Stephen Chow. This shouldn't really surprise that much. What's surprising, though, is the exuberant praise the film got from everywhere, including critical film enthusiasts. And this even though "The Mermaid" is a step backwards in my opinion, when compared to for example Chow's "Kung Fu Hustle". The reason for that mainly being a script which is too confuse and in which the director attempts to interconnect his personal story of a nobody becoming a phenomenon with a love story, which obviously has a few obstacles thrown in its way, and an eco-plot. The end result is only partly convincing, also since the jokes may be numerous, but somehow didn't strike a chord with me and did go a bit too much into insignificant slapstick territory.

The Mermaid - Film Screenshot 5

Ok, slapstick is actually Stephen Chow's forte, but his jokes start to get a bit old. Or at least that's the impression you get. Then again, there are in fact scenes that will once again give you a hearty laugh. Maybe the fact that the jokes hit the mark at times and at others don't is linked to Chow tailoring his movie more to a Mainland Chinese audience. On the other hand there are again some pretty violent and cruel scenes standing in contrast to the humor as well. The comic-like approach, which runs through everything, can't lighten this up that much either. And in respect to the jokes there are simply some moments popping up which clearly feature clichéloaden characters stepping on the stage for the mere purpose of creating a funny mood. Or they simple serve the purpose of a cameo appearance.

The Mermaid - Film Screenshot 6

However, I don't want to give the impression that the movie fails as a comedy. Certainly not! Even though some of the punch lines may be lost in translation or hard to grasp from the subtitles there is enough to laugh about. Still, it's hard to give the movie a thumbs up as a cinematic whole. The story comes across without structure and the finale is a lot more action-oriented than is appropriate, probably being aimed at satisfying a wide audience. Apart from that there is also a sure-fire happy ending, although it might not look like it for quite a while, which is why you even might feel a tad deceived at the end. Moreover, Stephen Chow just uses too many CGI effects, which also aren't always convincing. Yes, at times - presumably when the production ran out of money - it even looks outright ridiculous. Here, the director would have done well to convey his vision on a smaller scale.

The Mermaid - Film Screenshot 7

Deng Chao ("The Four") plays the money-grubbung villain, who naturally becomes a better person through love, quite convincingly, but it's newcomer Jelly Lin, who surprises the most acting-wise since she manages to carry her emotions well even in the scenes in which she doesn't have a lot of lines and without going overboard as is otherwise typical for Chow. Concerning the supporting cast everything is targeted at pushing the envelope in order to generate a few more laughs. Zhang Yuqi ("CJ7"), though, brings some sex appeal into the film. Next to that there is also a cameo appearance by director Tsui Hark in the beginning worth mentioning. Chow probably could have them all, but fortunately he doesn't overdo things here. If he just had put the brakes on the slapstick as well.

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Maybe I wasn't in the right mood for "The Mermaid". It also needs to be noted that generally slapstick doesn't get a lot of good-will from me, but actually Stephen Chow has been the exception to that rule up until now. Most likely other critics have given in to the hype generated by others too much, though, and praised the movie somewhat beyond value. What's nice, however, is that the eco-subject is woven into the movie pleasantly subtle and there is no wagging finger. Finally, it needs to be pointed out that considering a movie about mermaids you naturally need to expect a rather queer movie, particularly when it's from Stephen Chow. The end product suffers from a convoluted screenplay and at times mediocre or bad special effects. Making up for that are a few fine laughs, even though not that many than we are used to see from the director.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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