Don’t ask why, but little girls always aspire to be the following: super heroines, career women, princesses and mermaids. Before The Little Mermaid‘s Ariel inspired little girls to centipede in their swimming pools, hold their breath as long as they could, and play mermaids all the livelong summer day…there was Daryl Hannah in Splash.
As a young boy in 1959 Cape Cod, Allen Bauer falls off a ferry and is saved by a beautiful little mermaid. Flash forward twenty-five years, and Allen’s a fruit wholesaler, perpetually unsuccessful in affairs of the heart. After his latest girlfriend dumps him, he journeys back to the Cape island that holds such warm childhood memories for him.
Once again, Allen falls overboard, and since he still hasn’t taken any swimming lessons in the last quarter of a century, he still needs to be saved. The little mermaid that rescued him the first time is grown-up now, and she comes to the rescue once again. Because of the bump on his noggin, Allen doesn’t remember a thing.
But the mermaid does. She carried a torch (well, not literally) all these years. Using the address from the wallet he’s left behind, she emerges from her liquidy home and her tail becomes two legs. Bravely, and quite nakedly, she enters the Big Apple to find her landlubber love. Named “Madison” for the New York street, the humanized mermaid learns English from the television, she shops, she devours lobster. Allen’s ga-ga, but he doesn’t know she’s not quite of his own species, and Madison nearly blows her cover when she takes a saltwater bath and her fin unfurls.
Unfortunately, Madison also attracts the attention of evil scientist who wants to take her back to his lab, run some tests, and possibly sushi-fy her in the name of science. And to make matters worse, there’s a ticking clock-if she’s not back in the ocean shortly, she will die. Goaded by his wiseacre brother Freddie, Allen makes plans to rescue his girl.
Splash, released in 1984, was the first (sea)horse out of the gate for Touchstone, a Disney branch created to release the company’s non-kiddie fare. Erstwhile actor Ron Howard (Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days, American Graffiti) had directed before, but this was his foray into the mainstream. These were also star-making turns for the cast: Tom Hanks (who had come from TV-Bosom Buddies most famously), Daryl Hannah (who showed a comedic charm not found in her fightin’ replicant Blade Runner role), and SCTV’s Eugene Levy and John Candy.
Splash made quite a [insert bad pun here] at the box office, propelling its director and stars on to even bigger projects. A TV-movie sequel, Splash, Too, arrived in 1988, but neither Howard nor his cast made the return voyage. As a result, well … you get the picture.
The original, on the other hand (or fin), remains an endearing fantasy, still more than worthy of a watch after all these years. If you count Splash as one of your childhood favorites, we’d love to hear your thoughts in our comments section.