HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Mermaid
HTS Overall Score:74
It’s been a while since Stephen Chow has made a funny movie. The legendary comedy director is back again with another quirky tale full of laughter, but this time it looks like he’s back on track after the abysmal “Journey to the West” a few years back. This time we have some fun with a cadre of mermaids who want revenge on a wealthy philanthropist for destroying their home with a sonar device.
I’ve been a big fan of Stephen Chow LONG before he was made famous with “Shaolin Soccer” and “Kung Fu Hustle”. I can remember far enough back to a time when Chow was in front of the camera, instead of just behind it, and kicking butt and taking names with his own brand of comedy inspired martial arts. “Magnificent Scoundrels” and “God of Gamblers” are still titles that I’ll go back to almost as much as I do “Shaolin Soccer” (which is probably ono of the best movies he’s ever done). He manages to blend the inane world of Chinese comedy and the straight laced world of action and drama into a unique blend that is fascinating to watch. Over the years he has sort of lost his touch, with flops like “CJ7” and “Journey to the West” being almost unwatchable, but “The Mermaid” proves that he still has what it takes to make a fun film. It’s not a perfect film by any stretch, but it is head and shoulders taller than the latest entries from the prolific director.
Liu Xuan (Chao Deng) is a rich playboy philanthropist who has just made the deal of the century. He has bought up the green gulf area and made a deal to reclaim the place for a tidy profit. Teaming up with real estate mogul Ruolan (Yuqi Zhang) he drops a sonar device into the water that drives away all of the marine life in order to start his razing of the place. The only thing is that he didn’t realize that there were MORE than just your average fishes and sea urchins. A whole clan of mermaids have made the green gulf their home for generations and generations, and the sonar device is slowly killing off their clan. Octopus (Show Luo), along with the wizened old mermaid crone, have decided that they are modifying their most beautiful mermaid, Shan (Yun Lin), in order to be able to walk on land and seduce Liu Xuan so they can assassinate him and drive him from Green Gulf.
The plan seems logical to them, but Liu Xuan is a jaded and slightly egotistical millionaire. Shan isn’t his normal ditzy cup of tea so it takes some finagling to get her into his life. Every little plan to lure Liu Xuan to a hidden location so the mermaids can assassinate him seems to crumble to dust, especially when Shan begins to fall in love with, adding a whole nother layer of complication to the already insane plan. Soon enough Liu Xuan finds out Shan’s real identity, but by that point it’s too late. He’s fallen for her too. Only this time he may not be able to save Shan and her family, as Ruolan has her own secret plan involving the mermaids, and her desire for domination will not be sated by the handsome playboy.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=74057[/img]To understand “The Mermaid” and its humor you have to understand how Stephen Chow’s brand of humor works. Much like watching the “Telemundo” channel in Spanish, Stephen Chow’s brand of humor is very VERY slapstick, filled with tons of physical humor situational jokes. We have an mer-octopus getting his tentacles stuck through a blender while whistling so as not to alert the humans that he actually is half human, half octopus, or a hilarious gag where someone is poisoned but instantly revived by splashing some alcohol down there throat. However, Chow has a tendency for mixing in some very dark situations in with his over the top gags, and “The Mermaid” delivers that in spades during the final act. I’m usually prepared for him to introduce some darkness to the plot early on, but really the assassination attempt was the only thing that could be considered dark, so I was a bit puzzled. However that last act turns DARK quickly, with Ruolan and her assault upon the mermaid’s home.
For a first time actress, Yun Lin does an admirable job as the offbeat mermaid, Shan. She’s quirky and awkward in her role, but interestingly enough, that’s exactly what the role required of her to be so it all works out in the end. Chao Deng is easily the best character (besides Show Luo as the octopus) in the film due to his legendary roles in Hong Kong cinema, and makes for a likeable moron who is WAAAAAAAAY too involved with himself. The rest are cute and do the job well, but I had to let out a laugh when I saw legendary director/writer/producer Tsui Hark make a cameo in the film as a minor character.
Rated R for some violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=74065[/img]Using the Red Epic digital camera system, “The Mermaid” has a nice shiny look to it that works well with the bright colors employed by Chow. There’s some spotty CGI of the ocean and mermaid bottom halves, but overall the colors and detail is excellent, though the more CGI prone scenes seem to soften quite a bit to blend the CGI in (Asian Cinema has never seemed to put the effort that other countries do into making seamless CGI, although their costuming is second to none). Blacks are deep and inky, though some crush pops up here and there, and shadow detail is complimentary. Overall clarity is fantastic, although as I mentioned, sometimes the picture gets a bit soft when the image becomes to CGI intensive.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=74073[/img]Sony has provided two differing lossless tracks in DTS-HD MA, one in English and the other in Mandarin (which is interesting since it looked like the Mandarin was dubbed in too, as Chow usually likes to film in Cantonese). Both tracks are equally nice, but I tend to give the Mandarin a slight edge due to seeming a bit more “fitting” to the characters than the voice actors used for the English dub. Vocals are crisp and clear, and the track itself is rather front heavy a majority of the time due the rom com nature of the film. However the third act sets off an action sequence that engages the surrounds quite heavily, with Ruolan assaulting the mermaid home base. Guns blast off, swishing water envelopes the listener from all side and the thudding of a helicopter overhead adds some weight to the scenes.
• “The Making of The Mermaid”
• “The Mermaid: Behind the Scenes”
• Invincible Music Video
“The Mermaid” isn’t a perfect film, as the newbie actors (only a handful of the actors are actually veterans, the rest have only acted in one or two films at MOST) sometimes make the cheesy film even cheesier, but Chows impeccable sense of direction and balancing of two diametrically opposed themes (in this case the violence of the third act combined with the very light hearted slapstick first act) works to make this film an endearing and Ludacris adventure. I wish I could say it rivals the greats like “Shaolin Soccer”, but sadly it is just a GOOD film, but one that has gained an incredible word of mouth reputation as being China’s biggest hit to date, making a TON of money overseas.
Starring: Chao Deng, Yun Lin, Sho Luo
Directed by: Stephen Chow
Written by: Stephen Chow Hing-Ka Chan
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1, Thai DD 5.1
Runtime: 94 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: July 5th, 2016
Buy The Mermaid On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Recommended for a Watch
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