Ron Howard kicks off his directorial career with a funny classic featuring Hanks, Candy, Levy & the under-rated Daryl Hannah. Great script.
Allen Bauer has found the love of his life, and she’s a mermaid. How simple of a story can you ask for? It’s been 30 years since Ron Howard’s directorial debut splashed into theaters in March of 1984, and the movie still works for similarly simple reasons:
- Fish out of water usually is a pretty reliable comedy theme, and this example is quite literal.
- The screenplay by Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel & Bruce Jay Friedman is excellent – it was nominated for an Oscar. (These are serious comedy writers – look em up…)
- Tom Hanks (Allen Bauer) is both funny and likeable, capable of comedy and heart.
- Daryl Hannah (Madison) is one of the most beautiful women on the planet and extremely good in comic roles.
- John Candy (Freddie Bauer) was just transitioning from character actor to bigger roles. This part made him leading man material.
Splash is funny as hell and it is also sweet; this is the definition of feel-good comedy. This genre was something of a cottage industry in the 1980’s and I want it back. I love snarky mean-spirited comedy at least as much as the next guy, but you need these lighter comedies, too.
Ron Howard’s producing partner Brian Grazer came up with the basic idea but it took a while to find a studio. Why anyone on Earth would pass on the idea of a mermaid in Manhattan is beyond me. Disney picked it up, but were nervous about the mermaid wandering around half-naked all the time so they actually created a new company, Touchstone Pictures, to have an arm’s length distance from any uproar. Wow. (Still, they needn’t have worried – I can tell you from exhaustive research that you can’t really see anything. And when I was 11-12 years old, I was really looking…)
The film looks great; it has a really varied palette. The underwater sequences are lovely, the beaches beautiful, and New York City is ugly. There are lots of great interiors and the production seems to mirror Madison’s bewilderment and fascination with this new land.
Yes, Hannah is perfect as Madison, but not because she’s a wonderful mermaid. It’s her scenes on land in which she perfectly conveys the bright, open wonderment of a magical creature who sees the beauty in the world even as we’ve forgotten. The movie opens with a young Allen encountering Madison in a sepia-tinted scene of childish impulse; it’s a perfect beginning, as this tone really defines their later encounter as adults. He may have grown up, but meeting her again reawakens that child-like curiosity.
Alright, I’m laying it on a little thick. Never mind that stuff – it’s got Eugene Levy and the moron twins. So good…
The Representation Test Score: C (6 pts)
|Main Cast||Tom Hanks Allen Bauer, Daryl Hannah Madison, Eugene Levy Walter Kornbluth, John Candy Freddie Bauer|
|Release Date||Fri 09 Mar 1984 UTC|
|Genres||Comedy, Fantasy, Romance|
|Plot||A man is reunited with a mermaid who saves him from drowning as a boy and falls in love not knowing who/what she is.|
|Tagline||Two days ago, this girl showed up naked at the Statue of Liberty. For Allen Bauer, it was love at first sight. Now, everyone is chasing her… trying to prove she’s a mermaid. From the first laugh you’ll be hooked.|
|Writers||Brian Grazer (story), Bruce Jay Friedman (screen story)|