The Mermaid ★★★½

Stephen Chow's Mei Ren Yu a.k.a. The Mermaid is a hilarious slapstick fantasy rom-com. Slightly borrowing from Disney's classic (a mermaid falls in love with a rich human) Chow frames his love story with an increasingly graphic ecological message.

Here we have Liu, a self-made billionaire who fully acknowledges “I'm shallow. I'm only interested in the money”, yet he's dancing by himself to a song with lyrics like “being invincible is so empty”. Enter the female love interest: Shan, who has no idea how humans use make-up correctly but is a bad-ass skateboarder nonetheless and a grilled chicken aficionado.

Her attempts to assassinate Liu are equally funny as are Liu's later efforts to convince two police officers he has been kidnapped by mermaids or the mermaid's leader, Octopus, having to mutilate himself to stay undercover. The Mermaid starts strong right out of the gate when a group of visitors are getting ripped off by a shady exhibitor and still manages to sneak in little hilarious treats like one of the mermaids wearing a bathing cap.

Granted, the first half of the movie is way stronger than the second, the action packed third act specifically not only gets rather gruesome all of a sudden (and pushes the violence onward) but slightly overstays its welcome too. If nothing else because it has to rely heavily on poor VFX who never really look that convincing, more cheap and hokey (but maybe Chow is echoing the exhibitor's plea from the opening, claiming “You're expecting a lot for only ten bucks!”).

Overall though The Mermaid is certainly - and easily - one of the best comedies of the year and understandably broke box office records in its native country of China.