Review: MERMAID 美人鱼 (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Review: MERMAID 美人鱼 (2016)

Stephen Chow's latest fantasy comedy MERMAID offers a satisfying mix of nonsensical jokes and slapstick comedy with thoughtful environmental undertone.

Three years ago, Hong Kong comedian extraordinaire Stephen Chow took a rare departure from appearing on screen and only involved behind the camera (co-writing, producing and directing) in JOURNEY TO THE WEST: CONQUERING THE DEMONS. But even without Stephen Chow plays a role whatsoever, his signature brand of "mo lei tau" (nonsensical humour) comedy remains intact. The similar trend continues with Stephen Chow's long-awaited CG-heavy fantasy comedy MERMAID, in which he stays behind the camera and let the rest does the acting part. Frankly, I wasn't really fond of Stephen Chow's new movie when I first saw his teaser trailer and subsequent promo that doesn't exactly inspired much confidence. But all that changes when I finally get to watch the full movie during the screening, and I'm surprised it was actually better than I expected!


When money-minded mogul Liu Xuan (Deng Chao) plans to reconstruct the Green Gulf ocean for a mass real-estate project, little does he know he is about to ruin the livelihood of the underwater fauna. This prompts Octopus (Show Luo) to dispatch beautiful mermaid Shan (Jelly Lin) to seduce and kill Liu Xuan at all cost. However, things get complicated when Shan ends up falling in love with him instead.


From the hilarious opening "museum" sequence to a surprisingly heartfelt finale, writer-director Stephen Chow incorporates different genres successfully into one movie. First and foremost is Chow's trademark comedy that blends both physical and verbal gags. Although the movie shown in Malaysia isn't the original Mandarin version but Cantonese version, rest assured the dubbing doesn't sound awkward or get lost in translation whatsoever. Be it the museum scene, the heavily-promoted scene between Liu Xuan and the two police officers (Zhang Wen, Li Shangzheng) or Liu Xuan and Shan's battle of duet as they sing their lungs out on Roman Tam and Jenny Tseng's classic song You're The Best In The World, just about every comedy element co-written by Stephen Chow himself is both energetic and funny.

MERMAID also works well as part love story between Liu Xuan and Shan, as well as part thematic drama that touches on the timely ecological and environmental concerns of land reclamation, water pollution and marine ecosystem. Although Chow's thematic interpretation is told in a straightforward manner, his economical storytelling method remains weighty yet effective enough without getting all preachy.

The cast, in the meantime, is equally top notch as usual. Under the guidance of Stephen Chow himself, he certainly knows how to bring out the best in his actors. Newcomer Jelly Lin, who reportedly beat 120,000 candidates to land the lead mermaid role as Shan, exudes a wonderful mix of childlike innocence and genial charm that makes her instantly likable. Best of all, she also possesses natural comedic talent in performing slapstick moments and deadpan sense of humour that successfully echoes Chow's signature acting style. Deng Chao proves to be a sport showing off his funny side, while displaying great onscreen chemistry with Jelly Lin. Show Luo, in the meantime, provides solid support as Octopus (a role which is originally reserved for Stephen Chow himself). Kitty Zhang Yuqi, who previously appeared in Stephen Chow's CJ7 (2008), is perfectly typecast in a femme fatale role.


The elaborate scene that Shan tries to kill Liu Xuan in his office with different "weapons" had me laughing the most.


Despite the lavish budget (at a reported 400 million yuan) spent on extensive special effects, some of the visual tends to look too spotty. For instance, there is one scene where Hin and Shan are swimming together in the ocean while enjoying the view of the marine habitat. That particular scene is meant to be both tender and romantic, but the unconvincing underwater effect sadly ruins the moment.


If you could look past some of the glaring flaws found in the effects department, MERMAID is the kind of Chinese New Year blockbuster that many others have failed these days: a comedy that is actually funny and entertaining at the same time.

* This review is written courtesy from Sony Pictures Malaysia press screening *

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