The Prince, the Witch & the Mermaid
(Phra Apai Mani)
Directed by Chalart Sriwanda

Artistic Value: * *
Entertainment Value: * * * ½

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When the king of an ancient Thai kingdom learns that one of his two sons has been spending his time training in the martial arts and that the other has been learning music, he is angered by their having so wasted their time and proceeds to disinherit and banish them. While the pair are subsequently wandering through the jungles, they come upon both a band of robbers attacking a village and a group of warriors with magical abilities. Having defeated the former, they join with the latter. The princes' new friends, though impressed with the fighting skills of one of the brothers, mock the other's musical talents. To prove himself, this man then displays his skills and puts his companions to sleep. Unfortunately, after the others have been lulled into a magical slumber, the prince is kidnapped by a giantess. She turns out to be a beautiful witch and compels her captive to marry and remain with her in the sumptuous undersea cavern where she lives. Meanwhile, the other brother, having awoken and failed to locate his sibling, wanders on and arrives at another kingdom. There he helps the ruler defeat the host of an invading monarch and marries the man's gorgeous daughter. Nonetheless, he does not give up hope of finding his brother. He sets out searching and eventually discovers that his sibling has, with the help of a beautiful mermaid and her family, escaped from the witch, along with the son he had with her. The witch, who is now burning with a murderous frenzy, is, however, pursuing her husband and child.

While it is goofy and flawed, Chalart Sriwanda's The Prince, the Witch & the Mermaid is still a fun and charming film.

The director has created a mythical world inhabited by a multitude of marvelous beings with various strange powers. Over the course of the film, Sriwanda reveals the gravity-defying martial acrobatics of one of his protagonists and how the other, like Orpheus, can tame beasts with his music. These two are not the only interesting persons in the film, either. Besides some weird or bewitching human opponents and allies, the heroes encounter several supernatural beings, all of whom are enjoyable to watch. The witch is revealed to be a beautiful woman, but she is also shown to be capable of transforming herself in to a potbellied giant with great curling fangs. The family of merfolk that befriend the abducted prince, and who help him to escape his captor, though never clearly shown, are also given a magical feel. Even the inanimate objects depicted throughout the movie add to its otherworldly aura. There is a fabulous city rising from the jungle, an enchanted undersea grotto, and numerous supernatural weapons, including, for example, arrows that transform into glowing animated snakes.

As fun as much of The Prince, the Witch & the Mermaid is, it is not without faults. Perhaps the worst of these is the way the film leaps from one event to the next with undo haste. Scenes often seem disconnected from one another, and the narrative is choppy. The viewer is left feeling as though he is seeing the highlights of a longer story rather than a complete tale. The movie is fast-paced and exciting as a result of this structure, but it is never as engaging as it could have been.

Whatever the movie's weaknesses, I did enjoy The Prince, the Witch & the Mermaid. It is certainly not a great film, but it is an entertaining one.

Review by Keith Allen

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