Movie review of “The Mermaid”: Hong Kong filmmaker and comic performer Stephen Chow goes behind the camera for this exhilarating, bizarre, good-hearted, blatantly obvious sci-fi-fantasy-slapstick eco-fable.

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The remarkable Hong Kong filmmaker and comic performer Stephen Chow (“Shaolin Soccer,” “Kung Fu Hustle”) has in recent years opted to stay behind the camera. And perhaps it is his absence from the screen that made Sony keep his new movie, “The Mermaid,” low profile for its U.S. release.

While the marketing strategies of movie conglomerates are happily not the concern of this reviewer, it does seem a shame that this exhilarating, bizarre, good-hearted, blatantly obvious sci-fi-fantasy-slapstick eco-fable isn’t getting wider fanfare.

The film has been breaking box-office records all over Asia since its Chinese New Year-pegged release overseas. The story sees the cute but awkward mermaid Shan (Yun Lin) on a mission to seduce and assassinate the vulgar entrepreneur and despoiler of the environment Liu Xuan (Chao Dng). Egging Shan on is a militant uncle who’s half-octopus (Shao Luo) while the matriarch of the mermaid clan is more of a follow-your-heart type.

Movie Review

‘The Mermaid,’ with Yun Lin, Chao Dng, Shao Luo, Zhang Yuqi. Directed by Stephen Chow, from a screenplay by Chow, Kelvin Lee, Ho Miu-kei, Lu Zhengyu, Fung Chih-chiang, Ivy Kong, Chan Hing-ka, Tsang Kan-cheung. 94 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. In Mandarin, with English subtitles. Pacific Place.

The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.

This is crucial because — of course — Shan and Liu Xuan fall for each other.

“The Mermaid” is no ordinary fantastical rom-com though, encompassing as it does weaponized sea urchins, incredibly delicious roasted chickens, man-octopus self-mutilation and other comic oddities. The slapstick is incredible, but that’s only one aspect of the movie’s spectacular humor: The relentlessly absurdist scene in which Liu Xuan tries to convince two police officers that he was kidnapped by a mermaid is probably the funniest thing that’ll play on a screen this year, and maybe next.

Things take a brutal turn when the businesswoman femme fatale Ruolan (Zhang Yuqi) begins an attack on the sea-people’s hideout. The resolution returns things to sweet and goofy ground, but Chow’s signature is so sure that the tonal changes have a unity born of conviction. Good show.