For me, watching Ron Howard’s Splash is like paging through an old high school yearbook. Look how young everyone is! Oh, the potential they had! What a great time that was! Most of the major talent in Splash did better projects later on, but the movie is a fun reminder of where everyone started and ended up.
Tom Hanks, showing early signs of that everyman charm, plays Allen Bauer, a single New Yorker consumed by his job and coming off a bad breakup. Driven by alcohol and a lingering childhood memory of encountering a young mermaid on Cape Cod, Allen takes a cab to Massachusetts. The trip turns out to be a bust: He nearly drowns and loses his wallet.
The little mermaid in Allen’s past also didn’t forget about their encounter. Days after Allen’s ill fated New England trip, that mermaid (Daryl Hannah, all legs and blonde hair) shows up nude, speaking no English and looking for Allen. At the police station, the two hit it off immediately, though Allen knows nothing of their past connection. As they fall deeper in love, the mermaid (who dubs herself Madison after the ritzy avenue) is torn with conflict. Does she stay with Allen or return to the sea? These options get perilous as a crazed and determined paleontologist (Eugene Levy) hunts her down, buckets teeming with water at his side.
Howard and screenwriters Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, and Bruce Jay Friedman never allow the movie to get too whimsical or too sugary. It’s ideal Sunday afternoon entertainment and a pleasant, appealing reminder of how Ganz and Mandell became screenwriting giants in the 1980s and early 1990s. At their peak, with movies such as Parenthood and A League of Their Own, they were masters at balancing gentle sentiment with belly laughs.
It’s also nice to see Levy play someone else. Much to my chagrin, he’s become a household name playing Jim’s Dad from American Pie in all of his movies since 1999. From my standpoint, it’s nice to see Daryl Hannah when she was dewy and starlet-new and not as an alumna of Quentin Tarantino’s kitsch rejuvenation program. Undoubtedly the sweetest sight in Splash is the late John Candy, who steals every scene he’s in as Hanks’ up skirt peering, playboy wannabe older brother.
I will go to my grave believing that – regardless of material – Candy was one of the most underrated actors of his time. His presence here is undeniable: one part con man and one part goofy best friend, and his energy is contagious. And his scene playing racquetball with Hanks is a riot. Wearing a sweatsuit a size too tight, a cigarette hanging from his lip, he’s determined to beat his younger brother. He just needs to get a beer first.
He’ll be missed at the 20-year reunion.
Now on a special edition DVD, this new disc features a commentary from Howard and a few juicy extras, namely Hanks and Hannah’s original screen tests.