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On March 9, 1984, Buena Vista and Ron Howard brought mermaid film Splash to theaters, starring Tom Hanks, John Candy and Daryl Hannah. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.
Splash, the story of a lovelorn bachelor who falls in love with a mermaid, deserves high marks both for technical verisimilitude and artistic merit. It’s a rambunctious comedy, coming from director Ron Howard who, with his previous, wacky Night Shift, unarguably shows that beneath that Opie Taylor/Richie Cunningham persona, there’s a wild and crazy spirit.
Splash should prove a refreshing dip for audiences, yet the film’s outlandish premise may hinder initial box-office success. Positive word-of-mouth may supply the bracer that audiences will need to test this invigorating comedy’s waters. Once there, they’ll likely lap and laugh it up.
Tom Hanks stars as a shy, romantically disillusioned bachelor. He’s part owner of a fruit and vegetable market, sharing that responsibility with his free-dealing, uninhibited brother (John Candy). Then Hanks falls into the ocean, knocked out in a boating accident. He wakes up to find himself in bed with a lovely blonde, in-the-buff mermaid (Daryl Hannah). He promptly falls in love, charmed by her innocence and beguiled by her exotica. Compared to the callous singles scene he’s been floundering in, she’s a wellspring of sincerity and openness.
Much of the fun in Splash comes from Hanks’ earnest attempts to court Hannah in a conventional manner. A short foray into Bloomingdale’s proves hilarious with her “man from Mars” fascination with everyday [gadgetry]. She learns English by watching TV, cooing in perfect advertiser-ese her responses to Hanks’ romantic overtures.
Trouble arrives in the form of a maniacal scientist (Eugene Levy) obsessed with scientifically proving that mermaids actually exist. Knowing Hannah will spout fins when exposed to water, he’s in constant pursuit, sloshing her with water in public places. While these escapades lend a chase-adventure dynamic to the film, their often exaggerated nature (at one point, the Army enters in on the chase) are Splash‘s less buoyant moments.
Still, most of Splash‘s loonier elements are hilariously on the mark, especially those involving scenes with the irrepressible Candy. Barreling through his part — either blasting racquetballs with a cigarette dangling from his mouth or firing off editorial salvos to Penthouse — Candy’s performance is a fully charged delight. Contrasting with the staid and serious Hanks, Candy’s portrayal is reminiscent of Michael Keaton’s freewheeling Blaze Blazejowski character in Night Shift. Indeed, the combination of Hanks and Candy resembles in many respects the combination of Henry Winkler and Keaton.
When as many as three screenwriters appear on the credits list (Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, Bruce Jay Friedman), one suspects a production in need of a lifeboat, especially when the script is based on a screen story (Bruce Jay Friedman) taken from another story (Brian Grazer). No such dilemma, however, for the consistent, cleverly structured Splash.
Technical credits, enhancing Howard’s obviously personal and professional direction, are expertly executed. Special plaudits go to director of photography Don Peterman and underwater director of photography Jordan Klein for the crisp but balmy look to the film. — Duane Byrge, originally published on Feb. 23, 1984
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