Saturday, 20 February 2016

"The Mermaid" (Guardian 19/02/16)

The Mermaid ***
Dir: Stephen Chow. With: Jelly Lin, Chao Deng, Show Luo, Yuqi Zhang. 94 mins. Cert: 15

Currently obliterating box-office records in China, this live-action cartoon finds Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer) elevating a Disneyish set-up – ruthless developer is mollified by the mermaid inhabiting the lagoon he’s plundering – with more of his usual good-to-inspired sight gags. (Much amusement is derived from an attempt to describe a hybrid form to a police sketch artist.) Happily, Chow’s eye for funny faces and presences remains undimmed: with her wonky lipstick and penguin waddle, Jelly Lin’s heroine could halt even the most intensive construction work, though she can’t quite top the prologue’s bearded, pot-bellied mock-merman, who rises from a bathtub like Ricky Tomlinson in Ken Loach’s Riff-Raff. Only the broader knockabout casts Chow out into troubled tonal waters. A last-reel merperson massacre – apparently framed to recall 2009’s conscience-pricking ecodoc The Cove – has earned The Mermaid a 15 certificate that feels simultaneously justifiable and restrictive, especially as so much else here unfolds as brisk, enjoyable child’s play.

The Mermaid is now playing in selected cinemas. 

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