The Mermaid – New Release Review

MermaidWe take a look at China’s highest grossing film of all time…

Liu Xuan (Chao Deng) is a showy, sleazy, but not hard—hearted businessman; he’s essentially a Chinese Howard Stark, right down to the tiny moustache. His dominatrix-styled business partner, Ruolan (Yuqi Zhang), seems initially like a similar personality, except it turns out that she is hard-hearted. So when a piece of land, the Green Gulf, is found to contain a population of mermaids within its waters, Ruolan is determined to exterminate them all, obscurely reasoning it’s in the interest of the profit motive. The merfolk, sensing what’s happening in the world, send Shan (Jelly Lin) into the human world as a honey trap for Xuan. But you know what love is like, and before too long both Shan and Xuan are fighting against their respective species – the mermaids are led by a Magneto/Malcolm X-like half-octopus figure who hates all humans – and trying to survive and make the world listen to their message of harmony, tolerance, ecology, and love.

If that message sounds a little trite on paper then you’d be right, but only on paper. The film itself is entirely straight-faced about that message, but delivers it with so much innocent conviction and easy charm that only the stony will fail to be won over. Director Stephen Chow, responsible for the madcap martial arts comedies Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, as well as the comedic fantasy Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, sadly declines to appear in front of camera here, but his live-action cartoon style – Jackie Chan directed by Tex Avery – is nonetheless very much in evidence. His actors – some of them experienced, others notably not – are universally comfortable with the material, and even the villains deliver breezily likeable performances, generating easy laughs. For Western tastes, the wacky unreality of the comedy may occasionally get to be too much, although a healthy million-dollar opening weekend in the United States suggests otherwise. Chinese audiences have already embraced the film, and it has already been declared the most successful Chinese film of all time, a happy success for a happy film.

The Mermaid arrives today (July 4th) in a beautiful Blu-Ray Steelback, will you be grabbing yourself a copy? Let us know in the comment box below!

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