Tom Hanks month 2 – Splash

For this week’s look into Tom Hanks’s early career, I was split between this movie and Big. Both are comedies with a touch of romance. Both are also movies that helped propel him into stardom. As much as I remember enjoying Big a long time ago when I first saw it, I chose Splash for three reasons. One, the mere existence of Splash actually delayed a movie I’ve talked about on this blog before, The Little Mermaid. Two, Splash came out 4 years before Big, making this more significant in Hanks’s early career. Three, Splash is an unfairly forgotten movie, whereas Big is fairly well known.

Splash is a notable film in a number of ways. It’s actually the first movie ever released by Touchstone Pictures, a Disney owned film studio with the goal of appealing to more mature audiences than most of their releases. The label is no longer used; since Disney bought Fox Studios, Disney’s more mature content tends to get released by either 20th Century Fox or Searchlight Pictures. Still, a Touchstone Pictures released a number of significant movies throughout its existence, including Armageddon, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Dead Poets Society, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 2012’s Lincoln (the biographical drama based on Abraham Lincoln), and even their TV production branch that brought us Home Improvement, Lost, Scrubs, Desperate Housewives, and The Golden Girls.

One could call Splash Hanks’s breakout film, but he’s not the only actor whose career benefitted from Splash. Splash is also generally considered to be late Canadian comedian John Candy’s breakout role, even if he was already known at that point. Daryl Hannah, who plays opposite of Hanks in this movie, also gained a lot of recognition from her performance in this movie.

I couldn’t find a lot of information about the making of Splash, which is strange considering it’s usually easy to find a lot of behind the scenes details for anything related to Disney. Producer Brian Grazer, who also came up with the story, first planned on releasing the film through United Artists. He shopped around several different studios, all turning it down, until Disney Productions decided to produce the film. They changed the premise a bit, to make it about a mermaid learning about life in New York, while an ordinary man in New York falls in love with said mermaid. Ron Howard agreed to direct, promising to make it cheaper and quicker than a rival mermaid film at Warner Bros. The Warner Bros movie eventually fell through.

Howard turned down directing both Footloose and Mr. Mom to direct Splash. A number of actors were considered for the lead role, including Jeff Bridges, Chevy Chase, Michael Keaton, Bill Murray and John Travolta. Murray turned down the role because he hoped to move away from comedy and into more serious films. Eventually they chose then lesser known Hanks. Also before Hannah accepted her role, it was turned down by Michelle Pfeiffer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Diane Lane, Sharon Stone, and others.

The tail they built for Hannah in her mermaid form was fully functional. According to the DVD documentary, she swam with her legs bound as a child because of her fascination with the original “The Little Mermaid” story by Hans Christian Anderson. As a result, she could swim so well with the fin that the safety team couldn’t keep up. Because it was difficult to take off, she’d often leave it on between takes, even while eating, despite not being able to leave the water with it on.

Hanks plays Allen Bauer, the co-owner of a wholesale produce business, along with his older sleaze ball brother Freddie (played by Candy). He’s very work focused, and has a long string of failed relationships with women that he never quite loves. Whether he realizes it or not, he seeks the connection he felt with a mysterious girl he met as a kid while touring Cape Cod on a boat. This mysterious girl grows up to be the mermaid, played by Hannah.

After a breakup, Allen goes back to Cape Cod, where a series of accidents caused by a couple of idiots ends up with him getting hit in the head by a motorboat. The mermaid saves him, finds his sunken wallet in the water, and uses it to track him down to New York. From that point on, they develop a relationship. They’re immediately connected on a romantic level, even if she cannot speak English right away. But she also proves to be a fast learner. She learns how to speak English on a competent level just by watching TV in an electronics store for 6 hours.

Most of this movie’s comedy comes from Hannah’s strange antics in the human world, Hanks’s reactions, and Candy, well … being John Candy. The chemistry between Hanks and Hannah enhances both the comedy and the romantic side of the story. At the same time, their relationship isn’t without legitimate challenges. Challenges like how the Mermaid only has 6 days before she must go home, or she can never go back. At the same time, she’s hesitant to tell Allen the truth about what she is.

While I generally don’t like the third act breakup that most romantic movies have, this one is justified for that reason. Just when the mermaid is about to admit the truth, she’s exposed by a scientist, played by Eugene Levy. This scientist spent years being rejected in his field, force to work with complete idiots, just because he wanted to prove that mermaids were real. He’s entertaining in his role, playing a desperate scientist who is looked down on by his field, but also ends the movie with a big redeeming moment.

Allen is obviously hurt by this reveal, not only by learning that he “fell in love with a fish”, but he’s also taken by the government for experiments, as he’s left naked in a tank for hours, just to see if he’d also grow fins the way the mermaid did as soon as she got wet. Any sane person would be kind of upset after all of that. It takes his brother showing his compassionate, wise side to remind Allen that he truly loves the mermaid and has never been happier.

I’ve referred to Hannah’s character as the mermaid up to this point in the review for a reason. For the first half of the movie, her only identity is something that’s impossible to write, or even say, in any human tongue. The moment she tells Allen her real name is kind of hilarious. She’s later given a name based on a street, Madison. Back then, Madison wasn’t really a name, and it was meant to be a joke. These days it’s actually a fairly common name, in fact it was the 3rd most popular girls name in the United States in the year 2000. Many credit this movie as the reason it’s become a popular name. In a 2014 interview, Hannah commented on the irony that a name that was meant to be a joke is now completely lost on modern audiences.

Since this is Tom Hanks month, it’s time to talk more about Hanks’s performance in general. He shows a lot of range in this movie. He’s convincing as an overworked businessman, getting annoyed at his brother who plays things loose, and how he often has multiple distractions every day when he first starts. He’s clearly dedicated to his job, but he also clearly doesn’t enjoy it. He sells his character being mildly depressed early in the film. When he shows concern over Madison’s “bathroom accident”, he looks genuinely worried. When Madison brings a statue from a park into his apartment, his confusion is priceless. Despite this being his breakout role, he performs this role like a seasoned acting veteran.

Splash ended up earning $69.8 million on an $11 million budget, making it a big success. It also received very positive reviews all-round, earning a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. Interestingly enough, Roger Ebert wrote a negative review of the movie, giving it a 1.5 out of 4, his main complaint being that Candy and Hanks’ roles should have been switched. I’ve got a lot of respect for Ebert, but he’s wrong on this one. The movie received several nominations, including the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, the Golden Globes Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and five Saturn Awards. It ended up winning the National Society of Film Critics Best Screenplay award, and of the five Saturn nominations, Daryl Hannah won the Best Actress Award.

“Splash, Too,” a TV film sequel, released in 1988. “Splash, Too” interestingly enough features Joey Travolta, John’s older brother (who was at one point considered for the role of Allen). There’s also a novelization, and Grazer is apparently working on a remake, although considering he announced that in 2016 and we last heard about it in 2019, the remake’s development seems to be in trouble.

Despite this movie’s impact on popular culture and even baby names, it’s strange that it has yet to receive a Blu-Ray release in North America. It was last re-released on DVD for the movie’s 20th anniversary. If you can track this movie down, and it interests you, it is well worth the watch. It’s a charming movie that’s funny when it tries to be, features great chemistry between not only Hanks and Hannah, but also Hanks and Candy as two very different brothers who work together. I first watched this movie around the time I wrote my review of The Little Mermaid. I enjoyed Splash back then, finding this a charming movie, and I enjoyed it more the second time.

It’s worth mentioning that despite being rated PG, there are brief moments of nudity, even if it’s mostly obscured in the water. The nudity is censored on the Disney Plus platform, even if the censor jobs are awkward, CGI additions and zoom-ins. Make of that what you will.

Next week I’ll be looking at The Green Mile, which is at least up there with the most dramatic movies Tom Hanks has ever been in. Then I’ll finish this movie off with a bit of an odd-one. A movie that released before Splash. That’s all I’m saying for now. Next month will be War Movies month, where I’ll look at four movies about four completely different wars. While most of them will be serious war movies, one will be at least a little bit silly. How silly? Well, that depends on which one I pick.


About healed1337

I am a relatively new comic book fan writing this blog for other new comic book fans and/or people who are interested in comics but don't know where to start. I've always been interested in writing, to the point where I have a college Creative Writing Certificate and I'm currently a year 2 Journalism student. I also have another blog where I mostly make fun of bad movies - As for how I got into comics, I've always had a passing interest in superheroes: most notably Batman, Spider-man and the X-Men. Until February of 2011 (I think,) my only experience with any of these franchises came from the movies and video games. Shortly after I bought Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 however, I decided to check out X-23, Wolverine's female clone. I ended up reading her Innocence Lost origin story and enjoyed it. From there, I started reading various X-Men comics and it quickly exploded into my newest hobby. My other interests/hobbies include video games, movies, music, playing sports, my dogs and weird news.
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3 Responses to Tom Hanks month 2 – Splash

  1. Rachel Isakowitz says:

    It’s ironic how Roger Ebert wanted Tom Hanks to play John Candy’s character Freddie in “Splash”, since Tom Hanks originally auditioned for Freddie, only to get the male lead (Allen) instead: .

    What’s even more ironic is that John Candy actually wanted to play Walter Kornbluth in “Splash” (yes really!), but director Ron Howard felt that Candy would be better suited as Freddie Bauer (the brother of Tom Hanks’ character), so John recommended his SCTV co-star Eugene Levy for the role of Walter Kornbluth instead, to which Ron Howard then accepted the suggestion: .


    • healed1337 says:

      I didn’t know about John Candy wanting to play the scientist, but I could see that working. That said, I think the final casting decisions they made ended up being the right choices, despite what Ebert says.


  2. Pingback: Tom Hanks month 4 – Mazes and Monsters | healed1337

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