Mei ren yu [The Mermaid] (2016)

Mei ren yu
Director: Stephen Chow
Writer: Hing-Ka Chan, Stephen Chow, Chi Keung Fung, Miu-Kei Ho, Ivy KongSi-Cheun Lee, Zhengyu Lu, Kan-Cheung Tsang
Cast: Yun Lin, Chao Deng, Show Lo, Yuqi Zhang, Hark Tsui, Zhang Wen, Kris Wu
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2016
[Review by cornholio.]

Shan (Yun Lin) is a mermaid with a mission. She and her people have been all but entirely pushed out of the sea and the very last corner they can still call their own is now severely threatened by the rural developments led by Liu Xuan (Chao Deng). So Shan – as the best walker – is chosen to find Xuan and to assassinate him. But she is fascinated with life on the shore, and with Xuan himself and soon finds herself questioning her own loyalties.

I had laughed my ass off at both Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer, so my expectations for Chow’s most recent outing as a director were quite high. I’m happy to say that Mei ren yu was one of the funniest, silliest film I have seen in a very long time. Every second of it is brilliantly entertaining, even if there’s a serious core message in the film as well.

The Mermaid is filled with slapstick and silly jokes that shouldn’t work but somehow, it all comes together perfectly. Chow hits all the right beats and at the right time, and his cast manages to keep up with the considerable tempo and the fun, and yet to remain emotional characters with development that can be taken seriously as people. Shan was simply all cuteness and I wanted to gobble her up and even Xuan grew on me. Of course there were characters that were built more as comic relief – like Octopus (Show Lo) or Shan’s grandmother (Mei’e Zhang) – but even they weren’t just jokes.

Since the film takes us on such a wild ride, from one silliness to the next, you can hardly expect it to be a thoughtful treatment of political issues. But they do try. The film has an ecological message at its core and never loses sight of that in all the laughter: Shan’s world is being destroyed by greed that simply doesn’t care for sustainability.

It was particularly interesting that there was one white person in the film, George (Ivan Kotik) who is involved in all of the economic scheming. An unsubtle pointer about the state of world politics in a postcolonial age, I’d say.

In any case, the Mermaid has its heart in the right place and it’s a big heart. So it’s not surprising that it’s a really romantic film. They don’t overdo the sweetness, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there, making a funny movie a whole lot more.

Summarizing: Perfectly lovely.

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