The Mermaid has just become the highest grossing Chinese movie of all time and I’ve read mostly good reviews about it. Looking at the trailer made me curious as to why this film’s been getting generally positive feedback regardless of its all-too obvious-fairytale story line and amateurish CG.
It’s been a long time since Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. I thought I must have outgrown Stephen Chow’s comedic style when I watched Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons and didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. But I guess one can never be too old for a Stephen Chow movie. With simple storytelling, he proves his signature filmmaking skills could still draw millions of people into the theaters. Millions turned to billions thanks to its Chinese new year opening day and use of “hunger marketing”. Chow kept the filming in secret, limited the trailers and prohibited critics from seeing the film before it actually opened in theaters, thus creating curiosity and generating a lot of buzz among the audience.
He is quite a gambler too. He took a risk and chose a 19 year old newcomer with very little acting experience to be “the mermaid”. Lin Yun, who plays Shan, looks like a mix of a young Barbie Hsu and Shu Qi. She still has a long way to go in terms of acting but her innocent charms totally helped turn this movie into the big blockbuster hit that it is now.
The mermaid Shan, is tasked to assassinate Liu Xuan (Deng Chao), a business tycoon who uses sonar technology to get rid of sea life and at the same time destroying the merfolk’s health, even causing their deaths. But the unexpected happened when the two fall in love.
Shan’s half man-half mollusk uncle played by the ever energetic Show Luo won’t allow it. He may be simpleminded but he takes this “Operation: Kill Liu Xuan” mission seriously to the point of allowing the mutilation of his own tentacles so as not to blow his cover in an extremely funny yet uncomfortable kitchen scene. It is, however, different from the discomfort felt in the latter part of the film when humans aggressively ambushed the mermaids, reflecting just how cruel men have been treating the sea and its creatures in reality.
The Mermaid has a nice mix of simple love story, laugh out loud comedy, a musical number, compelling drama and even a bit of horror. When one too many genres get thrown in together,there is a tendency to suffer from incoherence, but Stephen Chow knows how to make a movie that would make people disregard its flaws by going “all-in”. And if the box office results could speak,it’d say, Chow just won the game.