Sunday, 22 November 2009


Lowdown: A contemporary version of The Little Mermaid.
Like several other films of its era, 1984's Splash is a film packed with personal meaning. As a child, I saw it at the cinemas with my mother (Ramat Gan's Oasis in Israel, to be precise), at a time in which I stopped seeing films together with my usual movie partner - my uncle - due to his deteriorating health. No offense to my mother, but it wasn't the same. Splash also takes place in New York, my New York: the same New York I have seen just a year or two earlier during my first ever overseas trip. Watching that New York I fell in love with is not an experience that can leave me indifferent.
Splash does not only represent a special period of life for me alone. It represents a special period for its Star, Tom Hanks: it's the period in which his image was much less sterile than it is today and, at least by my book, much more charming overall. I'm talking about the period represented through films like Bachelor Party and Big, a period before he grew to be his current All American self. I'm talking about a period when films could have had some rough edges and not be completely politically correct and inoffensive. I'm talking about a period when films weren't designed by accountants or marketing specialists.
Splash features Tom Hanks as successful a New York fruit and vegetables wholesaler whose luck fails him in love. You see, he's not the typical male: He wants to fall in love with someone for life, he actually wants to get married and have kids, but things don't work out for him. Things start working out for him when he meets the rather strange and silent Daryl Hannah, who we know right from the start to be a mermaid: she can get outside the water and when she does she looks like a regular homo sapience, but put a drop of water on her and she'd become Flipper all too quickly. Hanks and Hannah fall in love and it all works out for them, but there are catches that interfere with the true happiness that falls on them: First, Hannah is restricted by a fairy tale type restriction that forces her to go back home (under water) within a week, thus putting an expiration date on Hanks' relationship bliss; and second, Hannah is being chased by an eccentric scientist out there to make a point. But by far the worst problem has to be Hannah keeping her mermaid secret away from Hanks, and you know right away this is just a kettle waiting to boil.
So yes, you could say that Splash is predictable. But it does have its coarse edges, edges of the type you won't see in contemporary films. First there's nudity: While the filmmakers go out of their way to have Hannah's long hair cover her breasts, there are scenes in which that is simply not the case and flesh is there to see. Oh, the horror! Today that would have been forbidden; flesh equals less kids being allowed to watch the film, which equals less money. No, say the bean counters (those that did not exist back in 1984): flesh is only allowed in the form of dead bodies, not sexy bodies.
Second, there is quoting from Penthouse magazine as well as some not so politically correct references to Swedish people and the film genre they tended to be famous for before the age of the internet. Again, nowadays a film could not quote from dirty magazines and expect to have the kid friendly rating required for maximum income. Besides, those references are made by John Candy, who may be very good at his role of Hanks' mischievous brother but he doesn't have the sexy body we'd like to see on our movie stars, does he?
In short, what I'm trying to say here is that Splash is a romantic comedy from an age in which a romantic comedy could actually exist (at this point I will say there are some good exception to the rule, like Forgetting Sarah Marshall; these do, however, seem to be relegated to a minor role in the fringes). It may be tacky but the heroes and the plot really grows on you. And besides, it's all taking place in my New York.
Best scene: The naked Hannah steps out of the sea to see the Statue of Liberty while looking for Hanks, causing some trouble with sight seers. What an excellent way to introduce a character!
Overall: Instead of coming up with crap like Angles and Demons, director Ron Howard should look at his past and revive his Splash days. 3.5 out of 5 stars, but due to personal reasons I like it 4 stars much.

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