After 2008's "CJ7" and 2014's "Journey to the West," Stephen Chow continues his streak of fantasy films with the 3-D epic fable "Mei Rén Yú" (The Mermaid).
Wealthy real-estate mogul and reputed lothario Liu Xuan (Deng Chao) plans to use sonar to dissipate marine life in an ocean preserve so he can develop an adjacent parcel he won in an auction. A reclusive shoal of mermaids dispatches Shan (Lin Yun) to seduce Liu as part of an assassination plot. Because the sheltered and mannerless Shan is nothing like the gold diggers surrounding Liu, he quickly becomes smitten.
Packed with slapstick action, fantastical special effects and silly and often off-color humor consistent with Chow's oeuvre, "Mei Rén Yú" also finds the Hong Kong comedian-turned-auteur contemplating the environmental and conservational ramifications of man-made islands such as the ones built in the South China Sea.
The subtitles regrettably don't let the English-speaking audience in on some of the jokes, such as when characters take Chinese figures of speech literally. The pop-culture references — like name-checking singer-actor Adam Cheng — also get lost in translation. Miraculously, none of those really diminish how original, inspired, immersive and entertaining the film is. Crass and macabre, yet big-hearted, it makes a wonderfully adult bedtime story.
'Mei Rén Yú'
In Mandarin with English subtitles
MPAA rating: R, for some violence
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Playing: AMC Atlantic Times Square 14, Monterey Park; Rave Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza 15