Splash (1984) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Tuna's comments in white:

Splash is one of those PG films with an amazing amount of exposure. Tom Hanks plays a workaholic wholesale produce broker who does his own work and his good-for-nothing brother's (John Candy) as well. He returns to Cape Cod for a break, and falls in the water. He is rescued by a mermaid (Daryl Hannah). He is instantly smitten, indeed, he was smitten by the same mermaid as a young boy, but has no idea she is a mermaid.

She is smitten as well. She finds his wallet, and decides to visit him in New York. It seems mermaids are allowed to become human for a short time once in their life. She walks onto Liberty Island starkers, and the fun begins.

Director Ron Howard could have gone for over the top comedy, but, instead, focused on the love story, and lots of small but effective gags. Hannah has never been better, Hanks did his usual great job, and Candy was perfect in his role.

Seeing Daryl again in this role, I started asking myself what my favorite Hannah film was. With 44, there are a lot of choices. This grew into multiple questions:

  • What is her best performance?
  • Which film did I enjoy her in most?
  • Which of her films is the best overall?

Surprisingly, my answer was different in each case. Maybe we can study this question.

Scoop's comments in yellow:

Splash is not rated spectacularly high at IMDb, nor was it a monstrous box office success. It was a small hit, and it is scored in the high average range, yet it was one of the most influential films of its time, perhaps of any time.


A clear, daylight shot of Daryl's young bottom, and several teaser shots of her breasts underwater.

Although it did not single-handedly change the way people dressed or what they did for recreation, ala The Sting or Saturday Night Fever, Splash did take a bunch of unknowns to stardom.

  • Tom Hanks, now a venerable and much-awarded Hollywood institution, arguably the biggest star of his time, was known only as a featherweight sitcom actor before this film. Splash made him a movie star.

  • John Candy and Eugene Levy were Canadian sketch comics from the original cast of SCTV. Levy was unknown. Candy was a bit player until Splash made him a comedy institution. (He is hilarious in the film.)

  • Daryl Hannah had been in the obscure Summer Lovers and had a small part in Blade Runner. Some people knew her face, and remembered her character in Blade Runner, but nobody really knew her name, including me, and I was a Blade Runner geek. Splash elevated her to the A-List.

  • Ron Howard had directed some Corman crap and a film called Night Shift, which starred his old Happy Days pal, The Fonz. That was about it. After Splash proved that he could make good movies with a good return on investment, he was Hollywood gold, and was able to develop projects like Cocoon, Apollo 13, and a Beautiful Mind.

Splash is, in fact, an excellent romantic comedy despite the crazy high-concept premise and the wishy-washy 6.5 at IMDb. I will argue that it is one of the best in the genre. We have often mentioned here that there are only about five erotic thrillers in history that are both erotic and thrilling. It is no small challenge to do both. The same rule of thumb applies to romantic comedies. How many films can you name which are both romantic and funny?

This is one of them. Ron Howard managed to pull it off by letting Hanks play the charming straight man, and letting John Candy deliver the crazy laughs. I should not slight Daryl Hannah, who was both beautiful and funny in her role as the mermaid. The director managed to allow her to be very funny by letting the humor come out of the character's naiveté in the ways of humans. To her credit, Hannah never missed a beat. She also proved to be a truly extraordinary athlete in the underwater scenes, which she did herself.

One day, Howard went to a swimming tank with glass sides, and auditioned many girls to be Daryl Hannah's body double. Daryl was there, so the technical people could match up body types. After watching a few girls try it, Daryl said, "let me try", and nailed it instantly - in fact, she did it five times better than the best among a bunch of professional swimmers and stunt doubles!

It turns out she had been dreaming all of her life of being a mermaid and had practiced the distinctive leg kick since she was a little girl. Daryl was also so athletic that she could hold her breath longer than the professional stunt doubles. Opie told all the swimming doubles and stunt doubles to go home. Daryl had those jobs as well.

The new 20th anniversary DVD features rare audition footage of Hannah and Hanks which was filmed on a home camcorder (great to see because of its rarity, but not especially entertaining), a new "making of" documentary (which I enjoyed), and a director's commentary, which I listened to when John Candy was on, because I just can't get enough John Candy stories.

Remember the scene where Candy hits himself in the head with a racquetball? Candy was just supposed to hit the ball into a wall, then they would cut, and show a ball hitting him in the head. By a million to one shot, Candy actually served the ball into his own head on the first take, and he had the presence of mind to fall down hard, as if unconscious, so they could keep that shot in the film! What's even more amazing is that he was as drunk as a skunk at the time (he was drinking real beer the night before and even in that very scene) and still had the composure to nail the unexpected take perfectly!

DVD info from Amazon

  • Commentary by director Ron Howard, producer Brian Glazer, writers Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel with and introduction and closing by Ron Howard

  • Tom Hanks & Daryl Hannah auditions

  • "Making a Splash" new making-of feature

  • Widescreen anamorphic format

In the "making of" documentary, they included some older footage of Candy talking about the movie and he is, as usual, hilarious. Playing on Tom Hanks's reputation as a nice guy, Candy tells about all the mean things Hanks did to other cast members, and even innocent bystanders - all of the time keeping a perfectly straight face! He had similar comments about Ron Howard.

Sigh! Not only have 20 years passed since Splash came out, but it has also been 10 years since John Candy died. I sure miss the big lug. What a rare quality he had on camera! Has there ever been any actor in history who could deliver such obnoxious lines and still be as totally loveable?

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary: 6.3 out of 10. (Seems underrated, but IMDb voters are not kind to featherweight comedies. This was one of the better comedies of the 1980's, and is one of the better romantic comedies of any era.)
  • It grossed $55 million in 1984
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a B. One of the greatest romantic comedies of all time and, thanks to John Candy, a genuinely funny film which can be appreciated by people who hate romantic comedies.

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