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The Mermaid Blu-ray Review

The Mermaid (2016) movie poster The Mermaid (Mei ren yu)

US Theatrical Release: February 19, 2016 (Chinese Release: February 8, 2016) / Running Time: 94 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Stephen Chow / Writers: Stephen Chow (screenplay); Lee Si Zhen Kelvin, Ho Miu Ki, Lu Zheng Yu, Fung Chih Chiang, Chan Hing Kai, Y.Y. Kong, Tsang Kan Cheung (co-writers)

Cast: Deng Chao (Liu Xuan), Show Lo (Octopus), Zhang Yu Qi (Li Ruo-lan), Jelly Lin (Mermaid Shan), Tsui Hark (Uncle Rich), Wen Zhang (Constable Mr. Mo), Kris Wu (Long Jianfei), Lee Sheung Ching (Constable Mr. Shi), Lu Zheng Yu (Mr. Liao), Chiu Chi Ling (Mermaid Long), Zhang Mei E (Mermaid), Matsuoka Rina (George's Assistant), Barbie Liu (Mermaid), Xu Zhen Zhen (George's Assistant), White-k (Museum Visitor), Kong Lian Shun (Museum Visitor), Tenky Tin (Museum Visitor), Chin Kwok Wai Wilson (Mermaid Fat), Lam Tze Chung (Technician), Zheng Ji Feng (Cheng), Fan Shu Zhen (Mermaid Shitai)

Buy The Mermaid from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital DVD Stephen Chow - Double Wow! DVD Instant Video

It's interesting to look at a list of the year's top-grossing films worldwide these days. It all seems pretty similar to the domestic rankings (Captain America: Civil War, Zootopia, The Jungle Book...) until suddenly it doesn't. Right now, in seventh place we find The Mermaid, which may be better known as Mei ren yu and three Chinese characters I can't easily reproduce. This Chinese-Hong Kong romantic comedy fantasy pulled in just $3.2 million in North America last winter, but that was gravy atop the $550 M it grossed in the rest of the world,
almost all of which came from China, where in just eleven days it became the highest-grossing film ever, a title it now holds by nearly 1 billion yuan. The film's success speaks to the growing significance of the Chinese film market, the spending power of China's enormous population, and the popularity of director Stephen Chow, whose past hits include 2001's Shaolin Soccer, 2004's Kung Fu Hustle, and 2008's CJ7.

Though easily likened to things like Splash and The Little Mermaid, The Mermaid is quite different from American films in tone and content. The MPAA assigned it an understandable R rating for violence and though few American movies have reached blockbuster status with that rating (namely, anomalies like The Passion of the Christ and The Hangover), this clearly drew viewers of all ages in China with the broad appeal of the nation's most lucrative imports, which somewhat inexplicably include Furious 7, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and, most recently, Warcraft. China only has two ratings in place: suitable for all ages and banned. So, it's not surprising that Mermaid earned the former designation despite some blood and off-color material.

In Stephen Chow's "The Mermaid", wealthy businessman Liu Xuan (Deng Chao) has his eyes opened to his environmentally unfriendly actions.

At the film's start, wealthy young pencil-mustachioed businessman Liu Xuan (Deng Chao) wins a bidding war, overspending by most accounts with a 20.08 billion purchase of Green Gulf in the interest of an environmental project. At the lavish celebration of this acquisition, Mr. Liu is approached by Shan (Jelly Lin), a strangely made-up party crasher we come to learn is a mermaid who is hiding her fins in big, floppy yellow clown shoes. A sleepy elder gives us a history of mermaids and their conflict with the humans, who hunt them and have driven them into hiding.

A blonde dreadlocked half-man, half-octopus (Show Lo) has enlisted the guileless Shan to seduce the lecherous Mr. Liu so that they can kill him and eliminate the threat he poses to their kind. You see, some of Liu's countless business associates have been developing potent sonar transmitters whose waves can swiftly destroy dolphins (and merfolk, etc.) whose presence would jeopardize the value of this Green Gulf investment.

Of course, Shan and Liu actually fall for one another. And of course, police do not believe Liu's reports on discovering real mermaids, mistaking them for the rantings of a crazy rich fool.

Shan (Yun "Jelly" Lin) is appointed to seduce Mr. Liu so that her endangered kind may kill him.

The Mermaid is a pretty broad comedy at times and a heavy-handed environmental parable at others. It gives us a good idea of what constitutes a Chinese crowd-pleaser in 2016, but may leave American viewers scratching their heads more than buying in. The film is too silly for adults to take seriously, but also too crude and violent to recommend as children's fare.
The visual effects are consistently underwhelming. Though reasonably diverting, the story never really stands out or hooks you and the stunt-heavy action climax evolves from routine and inevitable to overdramatic and ridiculous.

Looking over the list of China's top-grossing films, I don't know that we can say the nation has excellent taste in cinema. While I can't pretend to be versed in Chinese film, I can say that the country is a big reason why Transformers movies are still being made even as Americans tire of a franchise that certainly has done more harm than good for the art form. Very few Chinese productions have made any kind of impact on the North American box office, but in truth very few movies from any foreign country have found commercial success here and that is not a great indicator of quality or lack thereof.

Nonetheless, I can't hold up Mermaid as more than a glossy diversion, a vibrant and accessible fantasy that makes a minor impression and leaves no aftertaste.

Four and a half months after showing up in theaters more or less simultaneously around the globe, The Mermaid reached home video from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment this week in separate DVD and Blu-ray + Digital editions. Though shot in 3D, the film gets no Blu-ray 3D edition here in North America at this time.

The Mermaid Blu-ray + Digital cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (Mandarin, English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Thai)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Chinese Traditional, French, Indonesian, Polish, Spanish, Thai
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $30.99
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($25.99 SRP), in Stephen Chow - Double Wow! DVD with Kung Fu Hustle ($30.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

American movies may have paved the way, but the rest of the world has caught up on a technical level at least. That means The Mermaid's 2.40:1 Blu-ray transfer is every bit as good as the fine ones that Sony gives to new American films. The picture is colorful, sharp, and pristine. The default soundtrack, a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track in Mandarin is very immersive and well-mixed, although repeatedly it seems like the film has relied on looped ADR dialogue that is less than precise. This is the production's original language, so that's a little confusing, but no fault of the Blu-rays. The English subtitles are clean and perfect, translating all but the infrequent English line. An all-English dub is also supplied for those who want it.

"The Making of 'The Mermaid'" demonstrates there is never a dull moment on a Stephen Chow movie. The sepia-toned "Invincible" music video finds Jelly Lin and Deng Chao singing, whether or not it sounds like it.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's HD extras begin with "The Making of The Mermaid" (13:25),
an English-subtitled featurette full of behind-the-scenes footage. It pays notice to the sets, props, stunts, and underwater and carnival filming.

Next, we find a sepia-toned music video for "Invincible" (1:34), an original song that runs throughout the film. Deng Chao is shown recording the song with other cast members who do not appear to actually contribute vocals to the tune.

Finally, the brisk and promotional "The Mermaid: Behind the Scenes" (1:49) simply strings together some cast remarks and playful on-set footage of the stars and director Stephen Chow.

No trailers for The Mermaid or anything else are found on the disc.

The scored, static menu adapts the poster art that gives characters hairstyles based on their nature. The disc both supports bookmarks and resumes playback of anything.

An insert supplying your complimentary Digital HD with UltraViolet code is all that accompanies the full-color disc in the side-snapped keepcase that is topped by a glossy slipcover.

The dreadlocked and tentacled Octopus (Show Lo) poses as Shan's uncle to deflect suspicion from Liu's security detail.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Stephen Chow's The Mermaid commands attention on the basis that it is by far the highest-grossing Chinese movie ever and one of 2016's best-attended films to boot. Unfortunately,
that drawing power does not reflect an especially inspired piece of entertainment, but an often broad and heavy-handed environmental romcom. Those who are more accustomed to Chinese cinema or culture may find it easier to appreciate this blockbuster, which still makes for a more enjoyable viewing than many a lesser domestic film.

Sony's Blu-ray delivers a high quality feature presentation and a nice handful of bonus features, adding up to a satisfactory release of an okay movie that most will find different from the US movies they're more easily exposed to.

Buy The Mermaid from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + Digital / DVD / Stephen Chow - Double Wow! DVD / Instant Video

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Chinese Movies: Hero The Secret of the Magic Gourd The Grandmaster Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? Ilo Ilo
Huge in China: Transformers: Age of Extinction Avengers: Age of Ultron Jurassic World Titanic

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Reviewed July 10, 2016.



Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016 Sony Pictures Releasing International, The Star Overseas Limited, China Film Co., Ltd.,
Hehe (Shanghai) Film Corporation Limited, Shannah Enlight Pictures Co., Ltd., Shanghai New Culture Media Group Co., Ltd., Shanghai Tianshi Culture Communication Co., Ltd.,
China Cultural and Entertainment Fund L.P., Xiangshan Ze Yue Culture Media Co, Ltd., Alpha Pictures (Hong Kong) Limited, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.