Stephen Chow's Crazy Mermaid Adventure Just Became China's All-Time Box Office Ruler

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Sorry, Episode VII. The biggest box office smash in Chinese history is The Mermaid, the latest film from Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer). An environmentalist tale with a harsh message about humans exploiting the oceans and mistreating other life forms, The Mermaid has made an estimated $431 million in two weeks.

In The Mermaid, a good-hearted mermaid named Shan (Yun Lin) goes on a mission to seduce and then kill Lin Xuan (Chao Dng), a human industrialist who has been polluting and destroying the oceans. Her half-octopus uncle (with the awesome tentacles, as seen in the trailer above) is spurring her on, but of course Shan and Lin Xuan fall in love.

If you haven’t even heard of The Mermaid, that’s not too surprising. According to the New York Times, this film has gotten a very quiet release in the United States, because Chow is following his recent trend of directing without being out in front of the camera. And the distributor believed that American audiences aren’t interested in a Stephen Chow film unless it has Chow’s own antics front and center. That’s too bad, because, according to the Times, this is a darn fun movie:

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.


Last I checked, The Mermaid was actually playing at a theater here in San Francisco. I hope I manage to see it before it’s gone.

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All The Birds in the Sky, which is available now. Here’s what people have been saying about it. Follow her on Twitter, and email her.