With our August “Frolicking Under The Sea: Mermaid Fantasy Film Festival” currently chugging along in full swing here at the Litterbox, you Gentle Visitors just know this Catgirl Princess couldn’t pass up a chance to do her own review of HK filmmaker Stephen Chow’s latest romantic comedy “The Mermaid”, just available here on Region 1 DVD release. Sigh… Neko’s got a real soft spot for sweet magical romantic comedies…💖
Did somebody say synopsis? Yep, and it goes like this here: “Pretty, naive young mermaid Shan is sent to the human world on a secret mission by her people to play the part of a sexy temptress so she can assassinate Lui Xuan, a spoiled millionaire developer with a real estate project that threatens to destroy the last remaining ecosystem of her race. But despite her resolve to finish him off, Shan ends up falling in love with him instead. Can she put aside her feelings and save her people or will the mermaids fade away once and for all and become nothing more than legend?”
💕 Awwwwwww!!💕 Sweet adorable magical girlfriend romance movies… This wee lady can never ever get enough of those. Ghosts, Fox Spirits, Aliens, you name it… so why not one about one with a cute girl who is half human and half goldfish? Yeah… I’m there. The fact that this one is by the director of one of my all time favorite films, “Kung Fu Hustle” only makes me want to see it even more.
It’s a surprising smash hit in Asia, but will it live up to this wee lady’s hopes and expectations for movie goodness? Guess we’ll all find out…
This one’s been out for a while now, but rather than grab it right away on the HK release I’ve been waiting impatiently for the Region 1 that I just knew was coming along. Once it did, I grabbed it and by happy coincidence managed to have more than a few other “mermaid encounters” movie-wise that pretty much convinced me on the subject of this month’s Review theme. Ooohhhh! And it’s certainly a really nice counterpoint to the other “scary mermaid” horror offerings that I’ll be bringing you as we go along in the next few weeks. 😉
Our film gets underway as rich playboy millionaire Liu Xuan (played by Deng Chao) starts planning his latest big development project by purchasing the pristine Green Gulf wildlife reserve at a crazy price despite the fact that such properties are off limits for redevelopment. But our greedy tycoon has a way of sneaking around that restriction. He’s been doing some “unrelated” off shore sonar technology studies nearby that, unknown to anybody outside his own people, is really responsible for driving away all marine life from the area and making his newly acquired property eligible for “land reclamation”. Yep… if he has his way, this gorgeous unspoiled gem will soon be just yet another tacky tourist resort earning him and his sexy amoral business partner and lover Ruolan (played by Kitty Zhang) a tidy profit.
What he doesn’t know is that along with all the dolphins and sea turtles, he’s also decimating the last vestiges of the merpeople, already driven nearly into extinction by man’s pollution and exploitation of the seas. Driven into a corner, they’ve decided enough is enough and it’s time to strike back.
Their plan? Why to kill Liu Xuan, of course, by dispatching the lovely young mermaid Shan-Shan (played by Jelly Lin) to infiltrate the human world and use her feminine wiles to get close enough to Xuan to lure him to his death. There’s only one problem… Sweet adorable Shan just doesn’t have the heart of a ruthless killer.
She’s not much of a “femme fatale” or “sex kitten” either… being just hapless when it comes to understanding human beings and garnering all her “knowledge” from a steady diet of terrible HK TV. But… in her own odd quirky way, she slowly manages to charm the roguish Xuan with her unsophisticated and downright odd sweetness. It’s the whole “Magical Girlfriend” trope in a nutshell, and Jelly Lin does it to perfection. Somehow you just know that by our film’s climax she have found the diamond lurking beneath Xuan’s boorish exterior and we’ll get our romantic happy ending.
On our way there we get plenty of CGI enhanced comedy bits done in that broad “Looney Tunes” way that direct Stephen Chow is famous for. Mostly these work, although I’d have to say that to me at least, “The Mermaid” plays itself out much more as a standard by-the-numbers exercise in film-making than I had hoped for. There’s a lot here that is good, but nothing as novel or different as struck me with “Kung Fu Hustle”.
Some bits stand out… like that truly bizarre opening sequence in a tacky local sideshow called “The Museum of World Exotic Animals” featuring some of the downright cheapest exhibits ever fostered off to the public as “entertainment” such as a stuffed gecko passed off as a tiny shrunken T-Rex to a dog painted with stripes and called a panther, or a “mermaid”, part doll, part salted fish and a shame to even the worst of “Fiji Mermaids”. It leads to perhaps the one moment of true “horror” to be found within, when the lazy owner of the show tries to silence his critics by masquerading himself as a mermaid in drag. Your Favorite Catgirl’s eyes still ache over that vision…. 😉
My absolute favorite scene, by and large, hearkens back to “Hustle” itself as our adorable heroine tries at one point to assassinate Xuan on her own with her deadly “sea-ninja” skills and arsenal of poisonous sea urchins and a fishbone dagger while on a private dinner date only to hurt herself, again and again. Yes… I know… Chow’s done that before…. but it’s still hilarious and Jelly Lin owns it.
So. All in all I have to say I really did like this one, although I can’t honestly say this was Stephen Chow at his greatest. At best I suppose it’s fair to say that if it were a musical album rather than a film, then this one was more like “Stephen Chow’s Greatest Hits”. It’s good… and if you like Stephen Chow then you’ll definitely enjoy it… but it’s still more of a collection of past glories than a showcase for a new big hit.
With that I award “The Mermaid” a firm 3 “Meows” out of 5. It’s not my favorite Stephen Chow effort, it’s not my favorite Magical Girlfriend romance, and I’m thinking I really liked 1984’s “Splash” a “Meow” more than this one as mermaid stories go, but as movies go it’s still definitely a nice and entertaining film with a good heart and a sound ecological message that will make you smile and maybe even giggle here and there. Heck… and that ain’t bad, now is it?
The Region1 DVD was a good choice to see this one, available uncut and letterboxed with perfect English subtitles or even a dubbing in both English and… of all choices… Thai. Neat, huh? All for right around 15$ US. Makes missing this one pretty darn impossible, right?
Ohhh!! And lest I forget… Good friend of the Litterbox and fellow Asian film fan, Stephen already got to see this one and reviewed it HERE over at his very own blog, Gweilo Ramblings, so if you want another take on this why not pop over and have at peek? I get the sense from his Review that he liked it a bit more than I, but maybe that’s just my feeling. I just love giving my friends a lil “shout-out” now and again. 😉
So… let’s see..anything else? Oh, right!! Trailer comin’ right up! 😉