Re:tro Re:view – The Mermaid!

Jondee here at Green Gulf,

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The original title (in Chinese) is Mei ren yu, the film is directed by Stephen Chow, whose earlier films include Shaolin Soccer (2001) and Journey to the West (2013). It is the highest grossing film in China, about $550 million, but was a blip in American theaters. Note: the film is subtitled.  The film begins with what almost sounds like a Western theme while showing environmental damage from logging, dolphin slaughter. A deep water probe is sent spinning with a pulse scattering the fish. Then, we get the “Museum of World Exotic Animals” and the narration of the owner busy playing mah jong and the dazed customers looking at his supposed prehistoric exhibits. They demand a refund and he unveils the mermaid lurking in a bathtub which turns out to be a man in a mermaid costume. This handles the sideshow part of mermaids. The scene moves to an auction with an aloof woman, Ruo-lan (Yuqi Zhang) and a wealthy businessman in gold suit, Liu Xuan (Deng Chao), who wins the auction for the Green Gulf property. Chao has to play arrogant, obsessed, and take on the comedy/romance.  Zhang plays an attractive, but ruthless woman.   The wealthy assemble including director Stephen Chow, called Uncle Rich, and the short man in leopard suit, Cheng, who drops in with a jet pack to Liu Xuan’s mansion. Liu spouts Bruce Lee expressions and starts to groove to the “Invincible” song which is about having power, but being lonely. Cheng is angry and is about to take off with his jetpack, but it flies out of control bashing him around walls. At a pool party, Liue cuddles up to several women, Ruo-lan throws her $8 million watch into the pool to get the women to jump in.

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He will make a deal with her to also get close to her. Suddenly, a woman appears in the pool with smeared make-up, she is tackled by security. Liu checks on the woman, Shan (Lin Yun), who sneaked in as a dancer and she gives him her digits. Lin has the innocent look down and handles the comedy.  Shan rolls away on her skateboard below her mermaid costume and finally reaching a shack on a cliff. She opens a secret door and skates through a waterfall to reach an abandoned oil tanker crashed against the cliff. Shan reaches a bathtub with a boy who has scarred flesh and a tail. She reports to the leader who wants revenge on Liu. A man reports to the businessmen that dolphins were killed by sonar transmitters. You don’t see dolphins killed, but the end gets violent. Back at the ship, Shan takes off her costume and slips out of her socks covering her fins to join the other mermaids. An older mermaid, Shitai, with a massive tail flips water into shapes to show the parallel evolution of humans and mermaids. The mermaid leader (Show Luo) is angry about the situation and with a tilt of the camera, we find he’s hanging upside down as a half-octopus, he is called Octopus. Luo has the pure comedic part, his octopus parts are for some of the film’s strange humor.  He explains that Shan’s tail was clipped so she could walk. One of the assassins fires a dart at Octopus, his mouth starts to foam, and he uses an alcoholic drink as an antidote. During the meeting, Liu gets playful with Ruo-lan. She rejects him because he has habits like a poor person. Angry, he decides to call Shan.

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The assassins are preparing to get their target at the cabin. Shan appears in a white dress and finds bodyguards who were sent to pick her up. Octopus meets up with Shan, saying he’s her uncle, in the bushes. One of the guards finds a tentacle and another starts to gnaw on it! Shan poisons a glass, but it is another of Liu’s security, Mr. Liao. He finds a sea urchin and a bone knife. There is some mix up, but Shan soon finds Liu. Shan takes out the sea urchin and the bone knife to assassinate Liu, but this all backfires and ends up hitting her! Yup, it’s some slapstick for this poor girl. Her anger at being taken away by the guards makes Liu interested in her. Ruo-lan looks at her rival. Liu has them driven and stops at an amusement park so she can get some roast chicken. The two spend hours take down plates of chicken. Liu gets emotional thinking of when his father brought a chicken leg when they were poor. He writes her a check for a million dollars which she throws into the fire. Liu returns and she sings the “Invincible” song which becomes a duo. Liu bursts into song, this is hilarious! They have fun riding the rides, the guards look on. Liu walks Shan to her cabin in the moonlight. Octopus and his men get ready to kill Liu. She invites him in, but finds he loves her, so she takes off her dress. Shan sends him away to save his life. Octopus is angry, but it looks like Liu called for another date, Shan is not too enthusiastic with the “Kill Liu Xuan!” chant. Ruo-lan looks to eliminate Shan, get the Green Gulf property, and has other sinister plans. Shan has to save her people without betraying them and somehow have a relationship with Liu. There is some slapstick comedy moments, see other Stephen Chow films to get the humor, mixed in with this fairy tale love story and some violence, but more PG-13 than rated R (which is the DVD rating), they are not ripping out mermaid hearts. The special effects are fine, just not at the level of Splash (1984). Four Mermaid Tails out of Five!

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