So, 3D extravaganza The Mermaid, from Kung Fu Hustle’s Stephen Chow, busted all kinds of box office records in China, so I checked it out when it played in theaters around here, in 2D, of course. And, while I feel substantially out of step with mainstream movie-going audiences here in America sometimes, I can now say that I really feel like I’m on a completely separate planet from mainstream movie-going audiences in China. Even people here in America are loving this movie, mainly because it’s just such a weird mishmash of genres that you have no idea what’s going to happen next. Maybe it’s an incredibly bloody gun battle; or maybe a musical number; or maybe a lengthy sequence of slapstick comedy; or perhaps an incredibly earnest love scene; or maybe an impassioned speech about the environment. I mean, it is unpredictable for certain, but it just fell pretty flat for me. The humor was really very stupid and I only laughed a couple of times; one scene, involving the main character attempting to describe a mermaid to two lackadaisical police officers, is genuinely hilarious, and then there’s the bizarre scene where a half-man/half-octopus is forced to grill one of his legs while it’s still attached and chop off another entirely in order to pass as a sushi chef. The film is undoubtedly bizarre, but not in a particularly entertaining way. This isn’t a “so bad it’s good” movie, unfortunately, though apparently it’s striking a lot of people that way, but certainly not me. It was a film-going experience I just couldn’t enjoy, no matter how hard I tried to find it funny. Late in the film, during an incredibly heartfelt dramatic scene, the villainess suddenly appears and shoots a character with a harpoon that, very gruesomely, goes all the way through him. He looks down and then just says, literally, “Damn, bitch.” I feel like that should be funny, but it’s just stupid. And that’s The Mermaid. A creature rarely seen and now we know why. 1 star.
tl;dr – massive Chinese hit is a wildly unpredictable genre mashup, but it’s neither entertaining as itself or so bad it’s good; a couple of great moments aside, it’s basically stupid. 1 star.