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So here's the story. An estate project involving reclamation of the sea threatens the livelihood of the mermaids who rely on the sea to survive. So they dispatch one of their own to seduce and kill the project manager. The director here is Stephen Chow, who has also acted in many films. His more popular directorial efforts include Shaolin Soccer (2001) and Kung Fu Hustle (2004), but two of my personal favorites are From Bejing With Love (1993) and Journey To the West: Conquering the Demons (2013). If you're familiar with his work, you will know what to expect with Mermaid. He gives us a charmingly wacky, high energy film that moves at a brisk pace from start to finish. There are tons of jokes that are consistently peppered at the viewer; some work better than others, but it helps to keep the viewer engaged throughout.
The premise itself also allows for some unorthodox character interaction, which is especially entertaining. How many comedy movies concern a nutty mermaid who is attempting to seduce and assassinate someone? I always like it when a movie is a bit different, and this one certainly is. Like some of Chow's other films, there are some rather serious and violent moments that are introduced, but they work well despite resulting in some tonal shifts. The reason I feel this way is because this film makes its lead characters likable and you don't want to see them get physically harmed. So that's a positive.
The lead actress here is Yun Lin, who is a newcomer, but she dominates the proceedings with a very expressionistic performance. When she shows up for the first time, her make-up is all messed up and she's practically screaming her lines. You're saying to yourself, "Is this the lead actress?" Acting like this can get extremely annoying, but I have to say that she nails it very well. To give a performance this energetic and yet still be funny and likable is quite an accomplishment. She was definitely good in this. The lead actor (Chao Deng) is also very good. He plays off of Yun Lin properly and they have good chemistry together. Finally, I have to point out that the supporting actress (Kitty Zhang) could very well be the most beautiful woman on the planet. My goodness! The first time I saw her was in the very romantic comedy "All About Women" (2008) and really liked her performance in that one. She's just as good in Mermaid. At one point during the later half, she gets quite serious and she's entirely convincing. I do not want this woman getting angry with me.
With all of that said, however, I would not elevate Mermaid into quite the same class as the previously mentioned movies from Stephen Chow's filmography. But at the same time, I'm not exactly sure why I feel that way. Maybe it's the environmental theme and characters, which are basic and not particularly nuanced. So in some sense these qualities limit the overall depth of the film.
Also, the special effects are low grade and cartoonish. There's a lot of mermaid and tentacle stuff going on, which is not particularly convincing from a visual standpoint. This flaw is limited to being a minor distraction due to the light overall tone. For some reason, I easily forgive lackluster special effects in comedy films. And to be perfectly honest, I think moviegoers place way too much emphasis on special effects nowadays. If the film itself is immersive, low-grade special effects can be perfectly fine. Clash of the Titans (1981) is a great example of that. I love that movie.
Regardless, I definitely enjoyed Mermaid, and it could very well move up my ratings list after a second viewing. If it plays in a cinema in your area, check it out. It is not yet available on DVD, but there is a good chance at a wide release given the popularity of the director.
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