Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid makes a box office splash in China

Hong Kong’s king of comedy dominates the mainland box office with a record-breaking take of 2.2 billion yuan in nine days. Chow’s fans voice mixed opinions about the skimpily clad actress and “illogical plot”

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 February, 2016, 5:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 February, 2016, 9:16am

No film has made a bigger splash in China over the Lunar New Year than Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid.

The 11th film directed by Hong Kong’s king of comedy has dominated the mainland box office, grossing 2.2 billion yuan (HK$2.6 billion) since opening on February 8, according to Chinese box office site maoyan.com. Cracking the two billion yuan mark in just nine days is a record in the world’s second largest film market.

READ MORE: Film review: Mermaid – Stephen Chow’s environmental morality tale

Among the more than 156,000 douban users who rated the film, close to 60 per cent gave it a recommendation. But not everyone is a fan of Chow’s trademark mo lei tau (nonsensical) brand of comedy. Some fans on the site criticised the film’s simple and sometimes illogical plots, with one douban user singling out the film’s awkward combination of environmental morality tale and slapstick comedy. That comment was backed by more than 3,500 votes.

Some Chinese parents are split on whether the film is inappropriate for children, pointing to its sexual innuendos and bloody scenes. A man surnamed Yu, who is a fan of Chow’s old films, told mainland newspaper Hubei Daily that he decided not to bring his six-year-old son to watch The Mermaid after seeing its trailer because the content appeared to be for adults only.

“The actresses wore so little, and some scenes of mermaids being killed are too bloody.”

Other fans, however, deemed the film a smart attempt to bring attention to a serious issue by packaging it into a comedy. For most of Chow’s diehard fans, however, supporting The Mermaid was a no-brainer, regardless of content. Chow has a devoted following from his ’90s films – which broke all kinds of Hong Kong box office records – many of which are still regular fixtures on television in Chinese-speaking countries.

“In Chow’s movies, some scenes are indeed illogical, but you will find he will add anything he likes as long as it’s funny,” read a commentary on ThePaper.cn. “Humour is the essence of Chow’s films.”