Hello!!!! Sorry for not posting yesterday – yesterday was crazy, and I literally fell asleep as I was watching the movie, and when I woke up, it was already 2 am and I had no idea what happened in the film. So I decided to just go to bed and watch two movies and write two posts today.
The first post for today is on The Mermaid, the newest film from famous Hong Kong director Stephen Chow, who is hailed as the Chinese king of comedy. Some of his renowned works include Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. Although I’ve heard many good things about his films, I’ve never watched any of his works, so when I saw that my local theater was playing his most recent movie The Mermaid, I decided to go and give it a watch. Also, The Mermaid smashed box office records in China upon its release during Lunar New Year, and it has since become the highest grossing film of all time in China. So I definitely wanted to watch this movie and see why it has been such a hit.
The first character to appear in The Mermaid is Liu Xuan (Deng Chao), a ruthless self-made tycoon who has used a fortune to purchase the Green Gulf. He wants to turn the area into profitable real estate, but to do that, he will need to rid the area of its marine life. Therefore, he works with a group of biologists to develop a powerful sonar, whose force not only drives all underwater animals away from the gulf, but also injures or kills them in the process. Unbeknownst to Liu Xuan is that there is a group of merfolk who are also living in the area and suffering greatly from the sonar’s effects. Filled with rage, the merfolk’s leader, Octopus (Show Luo), decides to plan an assassination attempt on Liu Xuan. Knowing Liu Xuan’s weakness is women, Octopus plans a honey trap and asks Shan (Jelly Lin), a mermaid who can walk on her two fins, to dress up as a human, seduce Liu Xuan, and lure him to the gulf where an army of merfolk will be ready to kill him. However, Shan falls in love with Liu Xuan, and things become complicated.
I was initially hesitant about whether I would like The Mermaid because I was grossed out by one of its opening sequences, which showed a man emerge from a disgustingly greasy bathtub, dressed up as a mermaid with his thick abdominal hair completely exposed. I was worried this film would be one of those low-brow comedies that would leave me disappointed and potentially repulsed. Although the rest of the movie did have a kitschy tone, it proved to be quite a hilarious and entertaining watch.
The plot’s development was predictable, but the comedy would appear in moments you least expect, which adds to the fun of watching this movie. From Shan’s hilariously failed attempts at killing Liu Xuan to Octopus concealing his identity from humans and almost becoming a fried delicacy, memorable moments of humor abound throughout the film. Another classic moment is when Liu Xuan rushes to the police station after barely escaping the merfolks’ assassination attempt and tries to describe to the police what a mermaid is. The police draw out pictures of mermaids based on Liu Xuan’s description of “half human, half fish” and what results are hilarious, nonsensical interpretations of Liu Xuan’s description that leave him frustrated, but the viewers laughing.
Comedy aside, The Mermaid also has a timely and pointed message about environmental responsibility. When Liu Xuan talks about money and calls it the “most important thing in the world,” Shan retorts by asking what use money is if there is a not a drop of clean water or clean air left in this world. This conversation, along with the film’s plot and opening images of environmental damage due to industrialization, all contribute to the movie’s blatant message of environmental responsibility. In a time where China is facing an environmental crisis due to rapid economic expansion, The Mermaid serves as a reminder that money isn’t everything, especially if it comes with a price tag of the environment.
The technical aspects of the film were subpar. The Mermaid was definitely not an extravagant production filled with awing CGI effects or stunning sets. In fact, sometimes the special effects were quite cheesy and had a kitschy tone. While some may argue that the technical aspects of the film could have been better and ask why Director Chow didn’t find a better post-production team, I think this cheesiness may have been an intentional stylistic choice the director made to fit the tone of this film. After watching the movie, I actually tried to imagine the same dialogue and same sequences played out with the more advanced, eye-catching effects we see in many films today, and believe me, it would have been very weird to see The Mermaid play out in that fashion.
Of the cast, the most notable member is newcomer Jelly Lin, who plays the mermaid Shan with an aura of charming innocence. The Mermaid is her first film, and she has made a successful debut with a great performance. Only 19 years of age, it will be interesting to see what works she will take on from here. There were also a few surprise cameos within the movie, including Kris Wu, former EXO boy band member.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Title: The Mermaid
Director: Stephen Chow
Writers: Stephen Chow, Kelvin Lee, Ho Miu-kei, Lu Zhengyu, Fung Chih-chiang, Ivy Kong, Chan Hing-ka, Tsang Kan-cheung
Cast: Deng Chao, Show Luo, Jelly Lin, Kitty Zhang
Run time: 1 hr 34 min