Splash Review

With this next Tom Hanks archive review, I have to admit that I’m cheating. I have watched “Splash” before, but never reviewed it; in fact, I don’t have reviews of any 1980s Hanks films, and I wanted to get something posted from his earlier work. So last weekend I watched “Splash,” which enchanted me when it showed up on cable as a kid.

Tom Hanks, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are legendary names in Hollywood today, and it’s impressive how far they’ve come from a story about a woman emerging naked from the sea to flop into the arms of a 20-something produce distributor.

Distilled to its essence, “Splash” is just that – a lonely bachelor’s fantasy played out on screen. It’s what writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (who previously collaborated with Howard and Grazer on “Night Shift”), with Bruce Jay Friedman (“Stir Crazy”) do to craft this hetero-male daydream into an entertaining fish-out-of- water story (literally?) that gives it real legs (sorry).

Although viewers (mostly men) will be drawn to this fantasy pretty quickly, Daryl Hannah also gets to play a goofy, atypical female lead role, which can’t be underestimated in the film’s success. Whether it’s chomping through a lobster shell with her teeth, prancing through Bloomingdale’s or just getting her fins wet in the bathtub, there’s both a confidence/strength and a shyness/reserved nature to Madison – whose given name is the direct reason why you know a young woman born after 1984 named Madison. Talk about cultural impact.

So much is right with Hannah’s performance. An actress with more of a name or acclaim at the time might have made Madison into more of a caricature or been distractingly attractive (given how much the camera ogles her). Hannah is alluring, mysterious and quirky in a believable way. The film’s funniest moments are of her gleeful misunderstandings of American culture.

In his first big role, Hanks gives us a taste of what has made him lovable over the years. Allen is a strange and sad guy, especially in the beginning; Hanks has always done the part of the loser really well in terms of his comedic roles. He’s at his best when he’s frustrated, angry or desperate as Allen, but most of all he’s enough of an everyman that he earns audience empathy and sympathy as a “good guy.” That’s all this film requires of him.

“Splash” primarily holds up due to a few clutch moments that merge fantasy and everyday comedy. Whether it’s naked Madison emerging on Liberty Island and not thinking anything of it, the excellent bathtub scene or the deranged Walter Kornbluth’s (Eugene Levy) attempts to expose Madison to the world, these create highly memorable and impressionable moments whether you’re a kid seeing this movie on TV for the first time or a casual fan of light comedy looking to be entertained.

With a little more story and character development (Why is there a coral reef in Cape Cod and why would a mermaid be there on her own?) and the avoidance of deus ex machina, “Splash” could have even gone beyond fantastical comedy and become something a little more meaningful. The potential is definitely apparent with these two lovers from different worlds and society’s fascination with things like mermaids working against them. Nevertheless, it belongs among the ’80s staples and deserves some credit for leading to all the successful Howard/Grazer team-ups and Hanks hits.


3.5/5 Stars


Directed by Ron Howard
Written by Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, Bruce Jay Friedman (screenplay), Brian Grazer (story)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Darryl Hannah, John Candy, Eugene Levy


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