Mei ren yu [The Mermaid] (2016)

(On Cable TV, December 2016) I tried. I was willing. I was well-disposed, having seen and enjoyed writer/director’s Stephen Chow previous Shaolin Soccer (good!) and Kung Fu Hustle (classic!). But it didn’t take much time for The Mermaid to exceed by limits for weirdness, and then keep going. Crude, gross, unfunny and borderline repellent are good ways to start describing The Mermaid, and I’m being kind. I don’t think that the language and cultural differences can explain my negative reaction to the movie when those differences inherent in a modern Chinese comedy are often the things I liked best about the film. I think that The Mermaid is consciously aiming at a different comic sensibility. The message about environmentalism is great, but it’s undercut by comedy that works through embarrassment, self-mutilation and outright grossness. There are a few chuckles (there’s a good attempted-assassination sequence at some point) but nowhere near as much as I was expecting from Stephen Chow. What a disappointment.

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