Whether Splash earns a thumbs up as opposed to a thumbs sideways depends entirely on whether you, personally, would welcome a nude 24-year-old Daryl Hannah running up to you and kissing you. Splash is a pretty deeply chauvinist film, built entirely from the male gaze about the wonders of mermaid love (and lust). It’s almost unintentionally a parody of fragile masculinity the way that Tom Hanks’s Allen falls deeply for Madison the Mermaid when she’s completely mute; only to drift from her when she starts speaking.
Yet within that framework, Splash is serviceable; even charming. The success starts with Tom Hanks as the lead. He allows you to buy into the silly scenario, his blend of comic timing, warmth, and boyish charm foreshadowing the romcom juggernaut he would become. As far as big screen debuts in modest projects go, it’s tough to top.
It’s not just Hanks carrying the movie. Hannah doesn’t have much to do, but the role suits her perfectly; her otherworldly beauty and almost alien screen presence are pitch perfect. Just as important are John Candy and Eugene Levy; Candy in particular takes the “loser older brother” character type and turns it into something lovable.
It’s a shallow movie, content to be a competently-crafted fantasy with basically no commentary on any of the proceedings, to the point that its lack of authorial voice is a palpable void. (Surely there’s something to turn into satire here.) Then again, it is an early Ron Howard picture, so the workmanlike approach is not much of a surprise.
But I admit that I enjoyed myself. If nothing else, it’s fun to see Hanks beginning to ascend to superstardom.
- Review Project: Tom Hanks Retrospective
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.