Duyung, which literally translates to Mermaid, is a Malaysian fantasy comedy film that was released in March 2008. In it, a guy named Jimmy encounters a mermaid because of his pure-of-heart attitude and penchant for keeping the environment clean. The mermaid in this case is named Puteri (which means "Princess") and she is played by the very lovely Maya Karin, whom local audiences remember more for her decision to play scary and/or exotic characters, the most famous of which is a vampire. Long story, don't ask.
I'm supposed to be patriotically proud that my country managed to pull this movie off, what with the demands of filming in the open sea on an extremely tight independent movie budget (by Hollywood standards), but I've decided to take this opportunity to mean that I'm allowed to be as critical as I can be on my own country's product.
A tight budget and cheap special effects mean very little to my enjoyment of a movie, because I'm a huge fangirl of the Fantaghiro films, which I believe are the epitome of cheap 'n cheesy fantasy films that are saved by a fantastic story and lovable characters. You don't need a lot of money to pull off a memorable movie.
What I'm really trying to say is that Duyung doesn't have a memorable story to begin with. This surprises me, because it's produced by KRU films, who has done enjoyable cracktastic movies before under similarly limiting conditions. What's left with Duyung is a movie that doesn't really go anywhere beyond its vague environmental message. It feels incomplete, with characters that aren't fleshed out, scenes that don't go anywhere and reels of dialogue that don't mean anything. Still, this story still makes more sense than Fishtales... with maybe the exception of that one scene where poor-as-dirt Jimmy suddenly has a fully-functional scuba diving kit, what.
As for Maya Karin as Puteri, I think she was a brilliant choice to play a mermaid because of her previous experience playing unusual characters. Maya's Puteri has an otherworldly edge. She rarely blinks, tilts her head like a bird, and her open smile is really creepy (I half expected her to start eating poor Jimmy) and when she speaks, it sounds like she's struggling with the words. Has there been a mermaid before who spits water in greeting? It's easy to believe that Puteri is a creature not of the mortal realm.
The underwater scenes aren't anything new to those who've seen other mermaid movies, but it's a definite milestone for Malaysian film-making, which is what they set out to do.