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Splash (1984)

Updated on July 29, 2010

When Ron Howard's "Splash" was released way back in 1984 I remember enjoying the quirky tale of romance, comedy and a mermaid called Madison. But like so many movies which hold favourable memories of a fun childhood, watching Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah and John Candy in "Splash" now is not as great as I remembered. By no means is "Splash" a terrible movie in fact Daryl Hannah is still the stuff of male fantasies as the uninhibited Madison and John Candy is still fun in an over the top way but it all feels a little drawn out and repetitive.

As a child Allen Bauer (Tom Hanks - Big) is rescued by a young mermaid when he nearly drowns off of Cape Cod. 20 years later and Allen is back in trouble having returned to Cape Cod to sort his mind out and once again nearly drowns only to be rescued by the same mermaid (Daryl Hannah - Roxanne). Except Allen doesn't realise that the beautiful woman who saved him is a mermaid as she flees before he can speak to her. But having returned to New York he gets a huge surprise when the same woman turns up and immediately they fall for each other, but she has to make sure she doesn't get her legs wet or Allen may dicover the truth.

The storyline to "Splash" is both simple and charming delivering a nice mixture of romance and comedy thanks to the fantasy element of Allen unwittingly falling for a mermaid. It's by no means a terrible storyline in fact it's fun and whilst also predictable is easy to follow with the obvious problem of Madison trying to keep her secret from Allen providing the source of much of the fun. In fact "Splash" is at it's best when the focus is on Madison and her fun loving ways such as the dancing in the department store or having learned to talk by watching ads. Whilst intentionally funny there is also some charm to how Madison learns about life on land with Allen.

The trouble is that "Splash" tries to develop a sub story about a scientist trying to prove that mermaids exist and that Madison is in fact a mermaid. Whilst it takes the storyline off in an expected direction surrounding Madison's secret it also over clutters things, being more of a distraction than an addition. And it even starts to pose some strange questions about loving a mermaid, which in what is essentialy just a throw away romantic comedy you don't need it to pose questions. The good news is that the scientist Walter Kornbluth is played by Eugene Levy and he delivers so much comedy from a completely underwritten character.

Although "Splash" has this issue of trying to add more storyline than is necessary it is still quite an impressive movie especially when you consider it was one of Ron Howards earlier attempts at directing. Plus other than John Candy, the rest of the cast such as Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah and Eugene Levy were not the major stars that they were to become.

Considering his lack of movie experience Tom Hanks does particularly well as Allen Bauer delivering a mix of innocent charm with a touch of visual old style comedy. What is particularly noticeable is that although his character is a little whiney the Tom Hanks we watch in "Splash" is really no different to the Tom Hanks from more recent movies. With John Candy cast as his playboy brother the pairing may not look like their from the same gene pool but work well together providing both charm and out right, over the top laughs such as John Candy's Freddie childish money dropping so he can look up womens skirts.

But whilst Tom Hanks and John Candy provide plenty of comedy, "Splash" really is Daryl Hannah's movie and not because with her uninhibited ways was a male fantasy figure, although the strolling past the Statue of Liberty naked is most certainly the stuff of fantasy. Hannah gives Madison such a charming naivety that you can't but help like her and with her easy going ways she is not only a brilliant character but brilliantly played. Even when some of the scenes end up a little cliche, Hannah's innocent exuberance makes them work, such as the dance scene.

The things is that whilst "Splash" still is a fun movie to watch and doesn't look too dated when it comes to fashion and style it just isn't as good as I remembered. It all ends up a little repetitive with the same jokes and ideas used on more than one occassion. And with the scientist storyline ending up cluttering things up it just feels weaker than I remembered.

All in all "Splash" is still good fun and good entertainment. Tom Hanks and John Candy work well together whilst Daryl Hannah pretty much steals the movie with her wonderful performance as the uninhibited Madison.


Title: Splash
Year: 1984
Length: 111 mins
Certificate: PG
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, Eugene Levy, John Candy, Dody Goodman, Howard Morris, Patrick Cronin


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