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