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July 04, 2016

The Mermaid


Mei ren yu
Stephen Chow - 2016
Sony Pictures BD Region A
Now that I've seen The Mermaid, I can understand why the film was given an extremely limited release in the U.S., expanding slightly in response to popular demand. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the broad humor that Stephen Chow is known for just didn't work for me as it has on past films seen. Not having had the opportunity to have seen the film theatrically, or ideally in 3D as had the Chinese audience, I don't know if I would would been as enthused as had other stateside critics, who were able to see The Mermaid theatrically.

Chow lets his intentions be known immediately, with documentary footage from various ecological disasters as well as footage of how industry contributes to environmental destruction. Chow also satirizes the newly wealthy of China's entrepreneurs, the products as as well as practitioners of capitalism run amok. The billionaire Liu is more interested in buying the pristine oceanside property because he can. Underwater sonars are set up to drive away marine life, with the intention of making the area viable for a reclamation project. The mermaid, Shan, is assigned to kill Liu, in an attempt to protect the colony of mer-people that live near the bay. Shan first appears, popping out of Liu's pool, make-up smeared, as a ditsy admirer of Liu. Attracting enough attention to start dating Liu, Shan proves to be comically inept as a would-be assassin.

Shan's disguise for passing among humans is to wear long dresses. Her tail fin has been modified to allow her to awkwardly walk as if wearing a hobble dress, with big, rounded yellow shoes, almost like the shoes belonging to Mickey Mouse. There were several times when I wondered if The Mermaid might have worked better as an animated film, rather than as an elaborate, special effects laden film with human actors.

Chow's earnestness in getting his message across deserves respect. For myself, his film works best when no one appears to be working hard to get our attention or laughs. Newcomer Jelly Lin's natural charm comes through when she and Deng Chao, the mermaid and the billionaire, take in the rides in an amusement park following a dinner of street food chicken. The two look they they would have had just as much fun even if they weren't in front of the camera.

The blu-ray comes with a "Making of" supplement which is of interest in seeing the biggest set, the inside of an old ship. The physical demands placed on much of the cast and crew is evident as well, with filming in both natural and film set bodies of water.

For whatever reasons, Sony chose not to dispute the "R" rating, which is, to quote the MPAA, "for some violence". There is violence near the end, when the colony of mermaids is attacked, and blood is spilled. The violence in question might be disturbing for some, but it is far less than, for example, The Dark Knight. Just a reminder that the MPAA might be concerned about what is viable viewing for children, but they also find ways of limiting films not from Hollywood.

jelly lin.jpg

Posted by peter at July 4, 2016 09:42 AM