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The Mermaid

It’s a 2016 worldwide box office smash, that has garnered over 550 million dollars. Currently, it stands in 7th place in total international gross, just ahead of “X-Men: Apocalypse” and “Kung Fu Panda 3”. Stephen Chow’s “The Mermaid” (“Mei ren yu”) is that film, and if you haven’t heard of it…well, I’ll be good. Of course, the vast majority of that cash was banked in China–it’s the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time. When released there, earlier this year, it broke multiple box office records. In fact, over 99% of its tally was outside of North America. But Mr. Chow should be known to select audiences, on the side of the planet I reside in. He made a bit of a stir here last decade with “Shaolin Soccer”, and (especially) “Kung Fu Hustle”.  “The Mermaid” ran briefly in a few U.S. theaters. Lucky for uou, it is now available for home viewing, with a variety of language options.

Liu Xuan (a game Deng Chao) is an impossibly rich, tycoon playboy. Among his acquisitions is Green Gulf, a marine wildlife reserve. With the intention of using the beautiful area for building and investment purposes, an advanced sonar technology is utilized to eradicate the sea life population. Little does Xuan and his team know however, that Green Gulf is the home to a race of the mythical “merpeople”. The sonar device has killed many of them, and made others very sick. So, the survivors take refuge in an abandoned ship, nestled on the coastline under a waterfall. The vengeful Octopus (a strong Show Lo) helps plot to disguise a mermaid to seduce Xuan, and thwart his development plans. The adorable Shan (19-year-old cutie, Lin Yun) is selected, and she must steal Xuan’s affections from his ruthless business partner, Ruolan (the sexy Zhang Yuqi).

“The Mermaid” is an entertaining romp. It’s wildly over-the-top, and completely silly, which will be quite recognizable to Chow enthusiasts. The special effects are half exhilarating, half shoddy–but it’s a wry, comic screenplay, and most of the performers are perfectly cast. Also, you’d have to be extremely visually impaired not to notice that you are constantly slammed over the head with an environmental message. Hey, “The Mermaid” wears it on its sleeve, so it’s all part of the movie’s considerable charm. Mr. Chow is an expert in his set-ups, and how can you not admire a very funny scene in which the Octopus character makes sushi out of part of his own extremities, to maintain his stealth? “The Mermaid” is often a blast. And it’s certainly no worse than any number of American silly comedies, that rake in millions every season. So, read a few subtitles…and catch “The Mermaid”.

Grade:  B-

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